This article appeared this week: Time to Put the “Free” Back in “Freelance”. I skimmed it the day it came out, and then someone sent it to me. Was it a comment that I work too much? Doubt it. I spend a lot of time listening to music and contemplating the perfect sentence. A better article to send me would have been Time to Take the “Goof” out of “Goofing Off”.
While the article has a point (balancing the schedule can be complicated), it misses a more-important point: the people who make freelancing viable are the sort of people who aren’t fond of free time, who get focused on something and don’t notice the world around them. For people like me, freelancing is no more a risk for overwork than any other job.
I got into freelancing because it gave me the freedom to finish homeschooling my kids. Once they went to high school (which they both did), my job gave me the freedom to continue intensive parenting when necessary–such as when my highly-intelligent son broke his leg while doing Stupid Bike Tricks, and when he broke both his arms doing Stupid Bike Tricks. (My daughter also needed me, but her demands on my time could usually be measured in hours instead of weeks.) I could attend mid-day graduation ceremonies, tend to dying pets, and all manner of things that people with Real Jobs might not be able to do.
I had a notion that, once the kids were both off in post-secondary education or whatever, I would get A Big Girl Job. The extra money and the benefits held a certain appeal. Naturally, I would only take A Big Girl Job that would be better than what I had as a freelancer. Nope. Nothing seemed better. I looked for a year before realising that nothing, for me, was ever going to be this good.
I keep the freelancing work because it gives me freedom. I can accommodate the stupid, goddamned Ménière’s Disease that takes such pleasure in messing up my days. I can cherry-pick my clients and get rid of anyone who doesn’t work well with me. There’s even the freedom to do something different whenever I get bored. People still tell me what to do, but I have the option of declining to do it.
The Online Etymology Dictionary defines freelance as “medieval mercenary warrior,” 1820 (“Ivanhoe”), from free (adj.) + lance (n.); apparently a coinage of Sir Walter Scott’s. That’s me: a trusty weapon (words) and freedom. I take my words to the place where they’re needed and where I think I’ll get the most out of wielding them. The burden is on me to keep my skills honed so they’re enticing to the clients; if I become redundant, it’s my own bloody fault. No, I won’t be able to retire when I’m 55 years old, and there are weeks where I’m grateful for my line-of-credit, but that work-for-the-future thing doesn’t really make sense to me.
If one can keep the schedule balanced, as I generally am able to do, one is also never out of work. Where the employee is tiptoeing around the threat of losing their job, I may take a pay-cut but will not find myself suddenly unemployed.
I love my work. I love my jobs. I love being free.