“You’ve got it easy,” people often tell me, referring to being a freelance writer. Those people are usually employees of some sort. And, I’m like, “No. Actually. You have it easy.”
Writing for a living is anything but easy. It takes dedication, stamina, confidence and a whole lot of courage. And when I say courage, yes, I am talking about that kind that means being brave and standing up to scary things.
Brave? Tip-tapping on a computer all day? Please tell me what’s soooo brave about writing, people like to ask. Doubt and humor is usually smeared on their faces like cheap makeup. And after a long day or a rough week that gets annoying. It can even stir up a bit of hostility. So, instead of having these conversations individually over and over, I’m now going to direct all the people who want to have this conversation here, to this post.
What’s So Brave About Freelancing?
Writers are brave because they begin with nothing. No product. No source of income. Nothing. Just a new day and a chance.
When employees get up on Monday morning, certain things are known. Work lies ahead. Money will come. And it will come on a certain date. All you need to do is show up on the job. And, you workers with benefits don’t even have to do that. You can stay home and still get paid because you have some magical thing called paid leave.
But if you’re a worker like many of those I’ve met, you’ll probably insist it’s still easier to be me because you really have to work while I, as a freelancer, have the liberty to goof off or do just about anything I want.
Workers really don’t get it.
Y’all are the ones with the ability to earn while leaning, earn while napping and earn while sucking on cigarettes. Performance has little to with whether an employee gets the next paycheck.
In the long run, sure, poor performance gets people fired. But a day or week of sloppy, sluggish, lazy work doesn’t normally affect a person’s pay. I know. I’ve been an employee many, many times. Sometimes I worked hard, sometimes I hardly worked. Either way, on payday, my check came in the bunch.
For freelancers, that’s not how it works. We can’t afford to take advantage of even a quarter of the liberty folks think we have. If we do, liberty is all we will have and then we’re probably going to need to borrow some stuff from you, including money. And we’ll probably need a place to stay too, because performance is directly linked to pay.
As a writer, when I wake up on Monday mornings there’s a blank screen. If I want to eat, feed my child and pay my bills, I must create something. And that something must be worth buying. And even if it’s worth buying I have to find someone willing to pay for it. If any part of that process fails, so does the flow of my money.
But that’s not even where the risk stops. Because sometimes all seems well—I’ve researched, interviewed, wrote, published and whatever else the client specified—and I’m waiting to reap the reward. But guess what? The reward does not come.
Having clients agree to pay and actually getting them to come up off the money are two very different things. Sometimes clients pay, but nowhere near the promised date. And sometimes clients stiff me.
I have been in positions where getting stiffed was a real hard one to swallow when it happened. Facing the costs of living when your income isn’t forthcoming can be as scary as walking up on a wild animal or having a hooded man follow you down an alley. All these things have happened to me too so I can say this for certain.
Being a freelancer requires all sorts of courage. And if you aren’t a survivor, and you try live this here lifestyle, you are rotten meat walking. The vultures are already swarming overhead preparing to feed off you my friend.
Well, if it’s so bad why don’t you get a job? Is that what you would ask me if we were face-to-face?
Because it’s not “so bad” for me. I’m just keeping it real about what it’s like for those of you who don’t know but who act like you do. And I don’t want a job. I’m like most diehard freelancers– I just want people to stop saying it’s easy because it’s not. You feel me?