Reflections on Living the Freelance Life
We have all seen a meme about those of us that work from home, you know the one where people think you stay in PJs all day, no make up and lounge about. Those of us freelancers lucky enough to work at it full time and from home may take for granted the simple act of a flexible schedule. But not me!
My previous 8-5 style gigs had me wound up tight, running on a daily schedule that crammed as much life in to 18 hours as possible (because I had to sleep sometime), and redefining stress. It was common for my mom to say I did too much, or pushed too hard. It was hard for me to drop everything and alter my schedule.
Today, I have a different kind of stress. It is that stress of:
1. Owning your own business
2. Being in charge of your schedule
3. Being the only person to point the finger at if something goes wrong
Luckily, my successful husband pays our mortgage. In my first year as a freelancer, my goal was to make enough money to pay my horse board, horse expenses and car note with my salary. I'm happy to say I accomplished that and then some. It's been a little rough, and I took on more jobs than I should some months to ensure that bills got paid with a little cushion. Every time I get that check out of our cute little white, old-fashioned mailbox, it makes me smile. There is satisfaction knowing I am making a living at what I love - writing and photography.
This spring, I got a call that my mom was being hospitalized for "some kind of amnesia event." It took all of 8 minutes for me to grab some things, kennel the dog, and hit the road to get to the hospital. While I did call the husband to warn him that dinner was on his own and fill him in, I wasn't beholden to a boss or office hours to leave. I just hit the road. It was a tense day or so, but all is well now. My flexibility allowed me to be there for my family in a time of need, and the mobility of my work allowed me to continue working in the hospital to hit a deadline. Where the old, office Kate would have been concerned about abandoning her post, the freelance Kate didn't have that worry. I put family first. (But dang it, I still hit that deadline!)
I know that not everyone can afford to break out and freelance full time. It is a struggle, believe me, I know! There have been times over this year and a month since I left the secure paycheck of a salaried position to hang my freelance shingle that I actually looked for a full-time job.
The unknown of whether you can pick up work is scary; the bills will always make you want to shed a tear. Here is what I know, it does get better in year two. Unless you lose your marbles coming up with a million pitches during "pitch season," you will go in to the next year with a solid understanding of your workload. Then you can add to it or put the plug in some months.
For 2018, I know that the month of June is one where I don't want a crazy workload. In fact, it is already full. That month, I will compete in my first AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse World Championship Show. It is a dream of mine and freelancing allowed me to pursue it. Let me tell you how.
Instead of counting vacation days and hours away from my job, it was easy to pack up the lap top when I packed up my horse trailer. I arrived at the show a day early to get in much-needed arena time and it didn’t take away from my work time. I worked during the down time of a show, if needed. Heck, I've even done short portrait sessions to help pay my entry fees when it was a lean month! The flexibility of my work schedule is directly related to what I am doing each week. And I love that.
Some weeks I am in my office all day, every day. My dog sure isn't a fan of those weeks! But others, I'm in my car, traveling to another story. Or, I take one day to go see a friend out of town. My husband’s day off changes weekly, and setting my own schedule allows me to match that time off so we can fish or just hang out.
Flexibility, mobility and the ability to make my life my priority is why I stuck out this tough first year of full-time freelance. The risk is worth the reward for me.