The Free(lance) Folk

There are so many articles out there about how to make the move from full-time work to freelance, and practically all of them advise having a 6-12 month “safety net” in place before doing so. There’s even a good handful of articles about how to jump into freelancing *without* the safety net…but even in all those articles the writer seems to find a way to get their freelance income to basically equal their full-time income before they make the leap. What I don’t see out there is advice for what to do if freelancing is thrust upon you due to job loss, you have zero safety net, you still haven’t made close to your old salary after a year, and lately you haven’t even been able to set money aside for taxes because your monthly bills are eating most of your income. Yeah. There’s no advice for that.

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I love freelancing. I love setting my own schedule and being on my own. I love working from home, or from wherever I want. I love not having ridiculous corporate evaluations. I no longer need to feel like my skills aren’t valued because I’m not an extrovert who prances about making small-talk. I even would enjoy being responsible for the money…if there were enough of it there.

The problem is that I just DO NOT know how to piece together anywhere near what I was making before. Right now I’m not even making close to what I made fresh out of college when I was 22. In publishing. In 2004. My student loans have gone down since then, and my car is paid off, but I have credit card debt from vacations I took when I had a real job and thought I’d be able to pay them down, and the student loans aren’t going anywhere. I can’t save. I’m way behind in the money I need to be setting aside for taxes, and I have anxiety attacks about it at 4:30 in the morning because, you know, that’s the perfect time to be thinking about money.

So how do you do it? How do these people who freelance edit/write survive? Are they all married to rich people? If not, where are they finding the high-paying gigs and/or the time to squish enough work into the week that they make enough? I can’t even afford to live anywhere but my grandmother’s attic. And how do you do it when no one really believes that you can and doesn’t think it’s worth trying?

I just recently picked up another editing client. It’s been helping fill in the gaps around getting papers from my main client. I have one writing gig that brings in a bit of extra cash. Then I random get little temporary marketing writing gigs that I sort of just stumble into through connections that also bring in a bit of extra cash. But I never have enough. I have budgets. I know how much I need to be making. I just haven’t been able to do it. I wanted to be able to write a “How to Freelance When You’ve Been Thrown Into It” article, but it’s more like I need someone to write one for ME.

For now I’m going to keep going. I’m going to get a loan for whatever I can’t pay in taxes and use any extra to put towards my credit cards. Then I’ll have just one payment to handle (or at least one less payment). I’ll really focus on my editing and churn out a paper a day every day I have one available. There will be more days where that’s possible now that I have two clients. I’ve only just started getting paychecks from the second client, so maybe it will start to improve a little. And if someone wants to write that advice column for what to do when you have no safety net and didn’t waltz right into a high salary, I’d love to read it.

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