Unfortunately, being 'that kid' doesn't get you far in life monetarily. After finding myself a single mother at the young age of 20, I realized quickly that my dream of hunkering down in a New York studio apartment struggling for the arts wasn't going to cut it when raising a child. Being a responsible parent had to come before my dream of writing the next great stage production. With that decision being made, I shifted into the world of retail. Not a fantastic option when being a single parent, but I found it to pay the most, and quickly.
I suffered the variances of a retail profession for over 11 years, while raising two beautiful children on my own. I was able to provide a cozy house, a dog, and a comfortable lifestyle for them all by myself. However, I wasn't available to them as much as I had wished I was. After getting married, I was finally able to pursue a writing career. In order to stay home with the baby and be more available to my kids, I turned to freelance writing and editing as a source of income, all the while writing books on the side. Freelancing is a wonderful solution to meet my family's needs. However, it may not be for everyone. Here are some of the ugly and not-so-ugly truths of freelance work.
One of the doubled edged swords of freelance work is the availability. Freelance work cannot be your primary method of paying bills due to the quantity of work not being a guarantee. When you sit down to work, it is not promised to be there. Sometimes there is an influx of work, sometimes there is nothing. I find that my paychecks can vary by several hundred dollars and there can be times when I will go without an assignment for a few days.
One of the upsides to freelancing, however, is that I can work when I want to work. If I have some free time, I simply sit down and work. If I'm busy that day, if there's a lot going on, or if I just don't feel like it - well, I don't have to work. Another thing that I love about freelancing is that if we need extra money that week, for example when our heat/AC unit broke, I was able to pick up some extra assignments and cover it. Of course, I was lucky that time that there was plenty of work available.
Setting your Own Hours
Freelance work takes drive. It isn't for the faint of heart or the lazy. You have to be self-motivated in order to be successful in freelance work. If you can't get yourself off the couch on your day off to vacuum the floor, you can forget working for yourself as an independent freelancer. You also need to be focused. I have to stay out of the kitchen during the daytime or I won't sit down to work. I know myself - I won't sit down and work if there are dishes in the sink, so I have just learned to go down into my office and steer clear of the kitchen until I've reached my goal.
Of course, setting your own hours has major perks, as well. Being able to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week makes it easier to plan out child care. If one of the kids has events going on during the week, or we have plans for the weekend, I can just shift the times that I work around. I can stay up late or get up early to work. I can take off weekends, or weekdays, depending on what is needed of me. If the baby has a bad teething day, I can walk away and pick it up the next day. It makes the stress level minimal because I don't have to be at work.
Going from working in retail to working out of my downstairs office was quite a change. I saw more people than I knew what to do with on a daily basis when working retail. Once I switched to working from home, my contact with 'real' people has dropped to almost zilch. I see my kids, my husband, and the occasional person that comes out to the farm. Otherwise, most of my contact is with people in New Zealand or the UK through emails, or followers of the blog. Being able to work at all hours of the day makes someone as financially driven as I am not want to leave the house. Why should I go out and spend money, when I can stay in and make money?
My wardrobe has also changed drastically. Some people say that you need to dress as if you are going to work when you're working from home. I've heard that it gives you more drive. However, I find that I'm more comfortable in yoga pants and a tee than in work clothes... and when I'm comfortable, I'm more likely to sit longer and focus harder. Of course this means that I can't recall the last time I was out of lounge wear. I went from high fashion to sleepwear.
One of the biggest things that I had to learn when switching from a high volume store manager's salary to freelance writing and editing was that it does not pay the same. My salary has changed drastically. When you first start freelancing, you need to start at the bottom. I've finally started hitting close to my original salary... on occasion. Of course, it varies by how well my baby is behaving that week, but I've started to get back up to where I was before on an hourly pay rate scale. Just be aware that when you first start out, it's going to be more work than pay.
Freelancing may not be the best for you. Its not a one size fit all career choice. I was lucky enough to have a wonderful supportive husband who was able to carry the bills until I was able to set myself up in this field. I honestly enjoy the work I do, and it allows me to be a mother and an author. I get to work on my own writing, spend time with my family, be a stay-at-home mom, and yet still contribute to the household. Freelance work fits my family and my lifestyle... and I'm extremely thankful that I was able to finally stumble into a fulfilling career, even after all these years.