1. I don't get paid on the first and the fifteenth of every month. And I'm good with that. But you must have the grit and the determination to wait out this unknown period until another project comes in. To not worry (much). After all, when that next project arrives, you'll shake your head and tell yourself that you should have been removing the deadwood from all your trees in the backyard instead of moping and fretting. So now, when the paying work is done, I move on to my own writing projects. Or DIY home stuff. Or weeding my yard. Or decluttering. Or organizing (and hopefully culling) my ever-growing recipe stash. Reading. Watching movies. Cleaning house (but that's usually a last resort, LOL). Or any of another dozen or so projects I'm anxious to get to.
2. I don't get paid the same amount when I do get paid. Gone are the days of two paychecks a month for the same $X, where you could easily predict your monthly income and budget accordingly. Granted, I've worked every kind of employee compensation setup: monthly (hard to do at first and still hard to have money those last couple days before paid once again); every two weeks (so you get twenty-six paychecks in a year and sometimes three paychecks in one calendar month) which makes it tricky to cover certain big-ticket bills, like your mortgage for instance, but you learn; twice-monthly, the standard first and fifteenth paycheck, which I kinda preferred overall (but you get twenty-four paychecks a year, and sometimes the first or fifteenth lands on a weekend and your employer may pay later on the next weekday). But those are payments for employees paid by the hour or salaried, depending on your setup. Then there's by the project. That's me. Some payments are under $10. Some payments are much bigger. But some months I get no money in at all. Such is the freelancing life. Before you freak out, remember that I've been doing this for twelve years now. And somehow it all works out.
3. I work every calendar day when I have paying work. No holidays off. No vacations taken. No birthdays off. No weekends off either. Granted, I'm a homebody, and I'm doing what I love, so I feel like I'm on vacation every day of my life since I began this freelancing journey twelve years ago. However, my body knows when to say Enough! And I listen to and respect that and take a full day off here and there. But I figure I have enough days off when the projects don't keep coming in. Plus I have my daily routine. I straighten up the house a bit to keep on top of the mess, fix my coffee, check my emails for incoming new projects, read a bit about what's new with the publishing industry and about copyediting, then dive into my topmost project. And I religiously give myself downtime at night to unwind.
4. I limit eyestrain. I'm a copy editor, the spelling and grammar police for authors, which means I'm watching for stray spaces (not kidding), making sure a period is at the end of sentences where needed, that a semicolon shouldn't be a comma there. Very detailed work dealing with minutia. So I read all the time. Not only do I make two complete read-throughs of each and every project that I work on (to catch as many errors as is humanly possible), but I love to read in my downtime. So I give my eyes a break with each cup of coffee I get up to make, each cup of water I drink, each nap I take, each bathroom trip I take, each meal I stop for (whenever I'm hungry, no matter what time of day), even when watching Netflix at night from a greater screen distance than I do my copyediting work. And I use f.lux on my computers (said to diminish the blue light emissions which cause eyestrain and sleep disruptions). Also I recently bought a pair of TrueDark glasses, Daywalkers (with the distinctive yellow lenses) and Twilight Zone (with the more distinctive red lenses). I noticed better, deeper, less interrupted sleep the very first night. And my eyes seemed stronger (vague, yes) where I felt I could work longer each day. Still there are upper limits I must abide by.
5. I work any hour of the day possible. This is such a bonus to being a freelancer. If I wake up at 2:00 a.m. and can't immediately get back to sleep, I head to my home office. I work a couple hours. Then I'm usually able to fall back to sleep.
6. I take naps! Not every day but that perk is available to me. Only in kindergarten did I have this luxury outside of my own home.
7. The nonexistent dress code. This may be one of the best reasons to love working for yourself. No stupid dress codes. Living in Texas, I mow my lawn nine to ten months out of the year. And I wear flip-flops nine to ten to eleven months out of the year. No more pantyhose. No more makeup (I'm a minimalist gal-next-door type). My hair in a ponytail. Each and every day. Gone are the curling wands and/or circular brushes and blow-dryers to make my superstraight hair be curly. What a waste of time that was.
8. I can run errands at any time. Even now, some twelve years later into this freelancing gig, I feel like I'm playing hooky when I get to run around town during "normal" working hours (after too many years in the basic cubicle mentality). I do try to restrict my runs to weekday mornings where there is less foot traffic in the stores. And to help out those 9-to-5ers who don't need me shopping during their time off. I remember those days of a minimum 1.5-hour commute round trip daily and then stopping at the grocery store at 7:00 p.m. at night. Meaning, if I was lucky, I got home at 8:00 p.m. and still had to unload the groceries. You can bet no cooking was done that evening. Now I can do a grocery run (to about five local stores), come home, put it up, prep certain items—like chopping up green onions, ready for an omelet at any time—or split up a family pack of chicken breasts into smaller portions which will defrost faster. I'm a foodie, a Deep South gal who enjoys a good home-cooked meal, so this is a real bonus to me.
9. I am my own boss. I'm diligent about reaching deadlines and have never been late to return any project to the wonderful authors I work with. This is a required skill, a much-needed discipline to have in any line of work but especially when it's your own business. I saw signs of this need to be my own boss many, many years before leaving the corporate environment. I'm sure my previous bosses did too. Ha!
10. Sometimes you have to make choices as to which bill to pay. I'm a geek who gets extreme pleasure receiving bills and paying them immediately. So, as a freelancer with a now-fluid income, this one was hard. But you make wise choices and catch up on those other bills when more money comes in. Yet I'm proof positive that you can wiggle your way through it. And even stop worrying about it. After all, I bought my first home in 2000 (where I still live), but I was working as a legal assistant at that time, making a nice salary and getting paid routinely twice a month. Then in mid-2007, I left that day job and started freelancing. Yet here I am, mid-2019, still paying the mortgage on that house I bought in 2000, yet earning only half (in a good year!) of what I used to make. I mean, if worse comes to worse, I'll hire on as a cashier at the local box store. Not kidding. You do what you gotta do. But I'm happy to note that I haven't needed a day job to bolster my freelance earnings since 2011. Just hang tough. Be open to new income streams (mine is writing my own books, but I need to put more of my spare time into that). Seek out more clients (which I do mostly through this blog and my KB ad), but thankfully I get most of my clients by referrals. God bless you all.
All in all, the freelancing life is heaven to me. I belong here. It's a sweet lifestyle. But I know it's not right for everyone. But it was more than perfect for me.
Wherever you work, may you be greatly appreciated and may you also thoroughly enjoy every moment of your career!
Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)