A little over a year ago I quit my job at a publishing house and went freelance full time. Freelance writing, that is. Which has also meant some freelance PR and some speaking and some other ways that I found out I can be “freelance.”
My overall thought on being a freelance writer is that 1. I really love it and 2. it’s really hard.
It’s not for everybody, I don’t think, and there were many times this year that I thought it wasn’t for me. Like the time in January when I had been working from a desk in my living room for four months, and I thought I was going insane, and then it turned out I just wasn’t around people enough. So in March I found an office listed on Craigslist in a building with other actual people, and I decided that my sanity was worth the extra cost per month to rent it. That turned out to be a really good decision.
There was also the time that I took on too much work. In the spring I said yes to four things, and then in the fall when all four things were under contract and happening, I thought I was going to die. It was great to have the money, but it was not great to be working at night and on weekends. I am not really one of those work-all-the-time kind of people, so I have learned to think about my calendar in advance and only say yes if I know it won’t make me crazy or want to die.
So there have been times that I didn’t feel cut out for this, and I haven’t even mentioned all of the times I’ve been in Excel, and looking at my taxes, and trying to do math and attempting all the business-y things that I am not naturally good at. I especially doubt my freelance abilities on my “get your finances in order” days.
But there have been some really good days too. Like when my sole task for an entire morning or afternoon or both is writing, just writing. I don’t have to be on email constantly or go to a meeting or feel pulled here and there because this is my job now, and my boss isn’t really a person anymore so much as it is a deadline, and deadlines? Well, I like them, and I can meet them, so they are just fine for me as a boss. That’s when I feel cut out for the freelance life.
There have been other times too when an opportunity came out of nowhere that let me work with former colleagues of mine but in a totally different capacity, and I think, “I never could have done this or had the time do this if I wasn’t a freelancer.”
And, there are perks. I can adjust my working hours so that I can grocery shop at 11am when Kroger isn’t a madhouse. I can wear whatever I want, though I do try and wear real clothes most days instead of yoga pants every day. But I have had weeks… And I have my office, but I can work at a coffee shop or on my couch or on a plane or just about anywhere else if I want to or need to.
The biggest thing for me though, the thing that makes me feel deep down that I am on the right track, has been how I feel at the end of the day. When the work is done, and I close my computer, I’m not zapped. I feel energized. I feel like I can go to the gym and to dinner with a friend instead of picking just one. I feel at peace in a way that work never made me feel before. I guess this it what it feels like to do what you’re supposed to do.
I didn’t know what that felt like before or that it was possible. I grew accustomed to the frenzy and the stress and the dread. I thought that was what work was supposed to be. But now, I don’t think that anymore.
One of my biggest emotions this year has been gratitude. If that’s an emotion. I am so grateful to get to do what I do. I think gratitude and peace are probably pretty good indicators that you’ve chosen a good career for yourself. You won’t feel grateful and peaceful all the time of course, that’s just ridiculous, but underneath the less desirable feelings you have on any given day, you will be saying thank you under your breath, instead of saying obscenities, and you will feel a rest in your soul that’s assuring.
I am thankful. So thankful for this past year, even the insane lonely months in my living room, and the headache I had from January to April doing taxes. I am even grateful for the stacks of un-filed, important documents lying around my office. They are a sign that I’m getting to do what I love, and that is a rare, rare opportunity for most.
I don’t think everyone should be a freelancer, or a writer. I certainly don’t. But I do think and hope that what you do brings you some gratitude and some peace, and if it doesn’t, I hope you challenge yourself to find something that will.
Psst! After writing this, I decided I might turn some of these paragraphs into longer articles, like “should you be a freelancer?” “what is it really like to be a ‘writer’” “how to know when it’s time to quit your job” “how to never miss a deadline again!” (haha) etc etc. I have thoughts on these things. Lots of thoughts. So be on the lookout for some more focused pieces on freelancing, writing and quitting your job. And shoot me a note to let me know some questions you have on these topics. There might be a Q&A session in our future.