Tuesday 5 March 2019

Between the Lines: The Highs and Lows of Working Freelance

Welcome back to Between the Lines. In today's post I consider the highs and lows of being a freelancer.

So often when you tell someone you work freelance from home, you see their eyes light up. Immediately, they say how wonderful that must be, commenting on all the free time I must have. There is a general assumption that working from home means a life of ease and luxury. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth.

First there’s the housework. That never goes away. In fact, there’s an expectation you’ll do more chores, not fewer, since you are ‘at home’. Cleaning, shopping, clothes washing, dishes etc. steal several hours of my time every week, and that’s only urgent stuff and cursory once-overs.

Then there’s the way the sanctity of the weekend disappears. If I have a job in, I tend to work on it every day, so I often end up working a full week, if not full days. Even if I don’t have a particular project on, there’s still plenty to do in terms of maintaining my online presence, in order to garner more work. I’m talking social media, writing blog posts, filming and editing vlogs, keeping on top of emails and other messages etc. I can work flat-out all day and still not get through my to-do list.

The hardest thing about freelance work is, of course, the uncertainty and stress of never knowing what work you’ll have in and if you will make any money each month. You couldn’t do it without a backup (in my case, my husband’s income). For me at least, working freelance means forgoing many personal pleasures, because I have to put nearly every penny I do earn towards bills. That means keeping a tight rein on my book spending, and missing out on most of the musical and theatrical events that I would have gone to see in the past, when I was still in standard, salaried employment.

So, why do I do it?

I realise I’ve painted a bleak picture so far, but it’s not all bad news. As with anything, there are both pluses and minuses to take into account. For me, the main appeal lies in being my own boss. I like having the freedom to plan my work hours as I wish, and the only people to whom I am answerable are my direct clients. To some, the solitude of freelancing might be a negative, but that doesn’t bother me. I’ve always been fairly insular, so I don’t tend to get lonely or miss physical company. I’m never completely cut off, in any case, what with social media and all the people with whom I converse online.

To conclude, I would say that freelance work needs a certain type of personality. It’s simply not going to suit everyone. I love it. My only reservation is the lack of steady income, which hampers pursuit of some of my hobbies and interests, and which places a great deal of responsibility and restriction on my husband, as the main breadwinner. Building up my portfolio of clients is still a work in progress. I can have some busy months, with several jobs in, but that is often followed by a temporary draught, with several weeks sans income. But that’s just the way the cookie crumbles, as the saying goes.

Do you work freelance, or is it something you’ve considered? What would you say are the highs and lows?

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