The Freelancing Life

*I actually wrote this a little while ago (just so you know), thought I might try shopping it you know to markets that talk to freelancers or wanna be freelancers about the realities of the hustle; but it’s 2 in the morning on a Saturday morning and …eh, looks like I’m posting it. See update below the original article…it’ll make more sense if you read the whole thing.

So I’ve been thinking about this yesterday and today: how much of what I do is about selling what I do. As a creative writer, I research markets and I write poems, stories, books and I send them out with a hope and a query (and then if it does get picked up and published, more selling to attract readers). As a freelance writer, editor, and miscellaneous on the hustle, I research markets, I prep queries and I send them out with a hope and a query. Hell, this need to sell (my books, in this instance) is how I ended up blogging and on social media in the first place. The querying continues whether I have active projects or not. Because as a freelancer, the next job is not promised and so you’ve got to be job hunting even while you’re working. There is no security. But there is possibility and diversity and a certain freedom that keeps me clinging to this life in spite of the rejections. In fact, most times, the rhythm of looking for the next gig makes it easier to shake off the rejections because that rejection is not the end all and be all of anything. On the creative side, it can be a little harder, because it’s a critique of your work, one that finds it not good enough. In the midst of all this, did I mention this, you’ve got to find time to write. In fact, for a writer, it’s not so much an imperative as it is a compulsion, though thank God a productive one.  So, thinking on these things, I realize a  couple of things – this life isn’t for everyone (some days I’m not even sure it’s for me), and that every day I’ve got to wake up and strap on the following list of things (if I’m going to continue to choose it) and so I do:

Self-determination, self-motivation – free will and an internal impulse to get up and do not because there’s a guaranteed pay check at the end of it not even because there isn’t (though that’s a part of it), but because in spite of all you really do like what you do and want to be able to keep doing it.

Focus and drive – because some days you’ve got to work through things you can clock out from when you work for someone else, including just not wanting to be there anymore.

Resilience – because you really don’t have a huge amount of time to dwell on what isn’t working, or on why this or that isn’t working. You’ve got to bounce back and keep on bouncing.

Know-how – self doubt will creep in, it does with every project, that niggling can I do this, what makes me think I can do this sensation, the self doubt that could stop you if you let it. What’s going to get you through that is getting started until you find you’re not faking it anymore you actually do know what you’re doing.

Fear – Double take, right? Maybe I meant to type strength but see I believe in the strength to face your fear; but to access that strength you’ve first got to allow yourself to feel the fear; the fear of failure, the fear you’ll be exposed for the fraud you clearly are (all evidence to the contrary), the fear that everything you really want is passing you by while you keep busy with busy work. And that fear will make you prep that query letter, pitch that project, take that leap that you take every day by choosing to be free of the routine and embrace the daily uncertainty of the freelancing life.

An ability to check yourself – as in check yourself before you wreck yourself. Know when you’re too tired, too sleepy, too pained, too wound up to do any of the above, and can give yourself permission to put it down for a while and, I don’t know, spend the afternoon chatting with a friend on the phone or watching back to back to back episodes of Supernatural with your nephew (that was a fun afternoon), or go for a walk or to the beach or to Carnival, or turn up the music right there in your living room and dance. After all, you’ve worked through enough weekends and late nights to sleep in if you want to and scud when you need to; the idea is to push yourself, not kill yourself.

UPDATE! I’m updating this to add this link about the ones you’d be better off letting get away. It’s really about the bidding and negotiating process which is a part (one of the most awkward, tedious, infuriating, frustrating, and absolutely necessary parts) of the freelancing life. Sometimes you’ll bid and hear nothing. Sometimes you’ll feel optimistic and then…nothing. Sometimes they’ll try to bid you down…sometimes they’ll try to bully you down. But taking the time to talk it out and then write it down so you’re both clear beats jumping without a net and crashing hard (been there, it’s not fun). This article spoke to a lot of my experiences, some of the things I get right, some of the things I’m still struggling to get right. If you’re considering the freelancing life, it’s essential that you understand your worth, be willing to negotiate, but be prepared to walk away if there’s no respect there and/or the cost of doing the job is greater than the cost (to your pocket, mind, soul, spirit…did I mention pocket) of letting it go.


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