Interpreting the “free” in freelancing

The juggling act that is Christmas usually finds me hunched over the stove as I simultaneously attempt to actually interact with some of the 20 guests spilling through my house. (No wonder I couldn’t wait to get back to work this week.)

One of those guests this year was someone I’d never met before, a tag-along with my eccentric uncle who often brings delightful people that for one reason or another have nowhere else to be for the holiday. This lovely, refined woman quizzed me a bit about my life as I tried (and failed) not to burn myself tending to trays of hot hors d’oeuvres, expressing surprise when I told her I write many articles each week.

“Oh, I thought freelancers just write one article at a time, then wait to get a new assignment, then write another,” she said. I filled her in on my 8-5 daily schedule and the rolling bundles of assignments I regularly tackle from various websites and magazines, and she seemed impressed. This is a business, I thought, not a hobby.

I’m quite sure there are freelancers out there that do work from assignment to assignment with no idea if and when the next one will come. But I will venture to say that these freelancers are probably part-time at best and don’t earn a significant income from their writing.

Practically all of the “successful” freelance writers I know (and I’m aware this word means different things for different people) toil more than full-time hours and have a stable of publications that expect work from them on a regular basis. We surely don’t work for free, and we have little free time. So what exactly does “free” mean in the context of our business?

For me, it means I can stop working to get a hair cut later this morning and pick my daughter up from voice lessons this afternoon. It means I can say no to an assignment when I don’t have time for it or don’t feel it meshes with my skills and goals.

But it often means I’m free to keep working until 9 or 10 at night just to catch up from the freedom of doing those other things. It means I’ll probably spend next Sunday afternoon finishing a bundle of articles due on Monday. It means that I alone have final say over the hours I work and the clients I accept, but also the more pressing responsibility of maximizing my bottom line under these circumstances.

What it doesn’t mean is being free to get up each day and decide if I’m going to write. It doesn’t mean being free of worries over how to grow my business. And it certainly doesn’t mean being free of the complications of running my business and my home at the same time.

I was glad to be able to educate one more person about the reality of freelance writing — at least, what it means for me. What does the “free” in freelancing mean to you?

About writearounditall

Welcome to Write Around It All. I’m Maureen Salamon, a freelance health & lifestyle writer who was a WAHM before WAHM was part of the vernacular. Four kids later, my days are a crazy cocktail of research, laundry, interviews, carpools, writing, errands and deadlines. I have it all, do it all and appreciate it all — most days. View all posts by writearounditall

4 responses to “Interpreting the “free” in freelancing

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