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Friday, January 3, 2014

A Freelancer's Life: Basic Overview

Self-employment has always been around, just maybe not as prevalent in recent decades as in the agricultural age. So my way of life is different from the norm.

Before I went freelance in 2007, I used to think that people running errands in their jeans during the standard 9-to-5 workday must not have a job, right?


Granted, they may be well-off or retired. Or they might work nights. Or they could be a gofer for a company that allows them to wear casual clothes and drive about town.

Or they are a freelancer, like me. Wouldn't change it now that I've lived the life.

Requires persistence. You must be self-driven, self-directed. Highly efficient with your time. Not easily distracted. Or at least leave your particular attractions for nighttime entertainment, as your reward, after the day's work is done.

Demands self-discipline. You must be able to make the hard decisions. You should have no trouble choosing to forgo cable, new clothes and weekly trips to see the latest movie at the theaters in order to make your mortgage payment. Not just at the outset but for however long until you reach your goal. Mine is to have enough royalties coming in to pay my bills with some left over.

Takes guts. I don't receive an exact amount deposited into my checking account on the first and the fifteenth. It's hard to budget when you have no idea how much money you will be dealing with for any month. Through each of these seventy-eight months, I made it work, even those periods with no money coming in. Even while seeking more at-home work as a copy editor, I've had a "day" job twice to tide me over when times were lean.

Once at a pizza place. That was fun because the shifts varied. I could still do my copyediting projects and some of my own writing afterward. Another year I got a cashier's job at a box store. Again with flexible hours. Even started a 401(k), which the business matched up to 5 percent. Not all corporations do that anymore.

So you do what you have to do (legally, of course) to pay the house note, but it should nevertheless be fun for you. This month I'm scheduled to paint rent houses (weather permitting). Pick something you would enjoy, like working at a book store or at your favorite fast-food joint, or mow lawns during the summer and walk dogs during the winter. Or you could be a plumber's helper or work at one of the home-improvement chain stores or for a local farmer during harvest times.

You decide. Isn't it great?

I'm also an author, earning royalty payments, just not enough to support me yet. Therefore, I need the time factor to work, for my readership to find me. And I want to put up more new material. Although my offerings are mostly nonfiction (nine of the twelve), my focus is on fiction now as I work through my remaining works-in-progress and ready them for publication.

Every season I plan to upload a new novel (or a short story collection or my latest annual quotations volume or other such nonfiction). Sometimes I don't make it. But mostly I hit the mark. I think it is more important for me to focus on getting four books out each year and not let anything else dilute that intent. Sure, if I were a full-time author, I'd meet and exceed that deadline.

Once I stopped working overtime in my previous career, I was away from home fifty-five hours a week (including the commute time). I work far more than that now with no two weeks off or sick days or holidays. But it all feels like a vacation nonetheless because I am doing something I'm passionate about, whether writing my own books plus my posts here, or copyediting another author's work.

My blogging is where I pay it forward. Don't look to me for marketing advice as this and Pinterest and writing good books are it. Then the passage of time takes over. So start now. For the clock ticks on regardless.

That's the broad strokes of this lifestyle. I try to have several income streams. I work year-round, weekends, holidays, over whatever hours I choose, be it 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. or 2:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. or just two hours one day when I have errands to run and then twelve the next (I don't recommend that, BTW, although I've pulled a few of those to be sure to meet my deadlines).

But don't let my tale of seven years as a freelancer and almost three years as a published Indie author (on four major online venues) discourage you. Another career field may move quicker. For other authors it takes less or more time. The success factor remains as individual as we are.

While I love being my own boss, I admit it takes a certain mind-set and fortitude, so it's not for everyone. I've learned to worry less. I've learned to appreciate money more.

So if you see me at the grocery store at 9:30 a.m. on a weekday in my jeans, remember that I do earn my living. I just happen to work for myself. And love it!

"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)

What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you give someone a book, you don’t give him just paper, ink, and glue.  You give him the possibility of a whole new life. Christopher Morley
The best inheritance you can leave your kids is an example of how to live a full and meaningful life. Dan Zadra

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