Tag Archives: money

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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Escapism

I don’t know what I’m going to write about, which is not good for a public-facing blog. Things I post here are supposed to be somewhat focused around a singular topic and at least some semblance of organization to them. They’re supposed to show the casual passerby that I sound like a writer. The crazed mindstream goes in the written-down journal, where the thoughts come so fast that my hand can’t keep up. So, sorry to anyone who reads this. It’s going to be a bit of a mess.

I last posted here in September. I miss being able to write ridiculous posts about books I read as a kid in the hopes that it will amuse someone who loved them as much as I did. Now my nerves are just frayed and the world is a disaster. I keep joking that I’m going to just leave…just pack up the cats and move to Ireland…because I loved it there last April. And yes, I was on vacation and obviously vacation is different from real life. But it would just be so nice to NOT BE HERE. Imagine being here instead.

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This was Co. Clare by a little creamery that made their own ice cream. You can juuuuuuust see the cows down by the beach. I remember being there and just wanting to build a little house right there and never leave. And play with the cows. (And then, you know, only eat ice cream because I’d have no car and would have to walk everywhere.)

And I freelance now, so technically I can work from anywhere. BUT I don’t think I make enough to afford even super-modest rent. And then there’s things that are nice to have like eating. And the cats would need to get their expensive-ass Urinary SO food either shipped over or I’d have to find someplace there that carried it. And getting two cats over there would be crazy expensive.

I also wouldn’t have any playwriting connections over there, and there’s no way in hell I could afford to live in a city where that would be easier to establish. And if I wanted to go visit the family, I’d have to have at least one friend who would be willing to cat-sit, and what if I made no friends?

But honestly, the biggest concern is my mom. I feel like I can’t leave her. Moving the cats is a one-time hassle (two times, because I’d probably come back after a couple years), the money thing is something I could work on if this is something I really wanted, and I could write on my own for a couple years and connect to people online. I’d just feel too awful moving away from my mother when she’s by herself (two of my brothers are here, but it’s not the same as having me around).

But I still find myself wistfully looking at rent prices and re-googling the process for bringing pets in, and what you have to do after you’re there more than three months, and wondering what being self-employed but for US companies falls under in terms of them giving you permission to stay, and if I’d have to be rich like retirees do because if so then this would just never happen…and then my mind runs away with itself like that. And all of that is just way more fun to think about than anything currently going on.

So apparently when I let my thoughts just come out all unfocused-like they turn to thoughts of escape. That’s good to know.

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Remembering what’s important

I was searching through HowlRound’s archives trying to find a particular article I liked (about writing characters of a different race than your own) and in the process came across this piece by Polly Carl that really resonated with me. I haven’t posted very frequently lately–I’ve been struggling with a lot of different things–and sometimes it’s really refreshing to read something that makes you want to get back on your blog and share it everyone:

If we let it, life will drown us in transactions. The life of transactions is not a satisfying way to live. I prefer transcendence over transaction. Which is why I have chosen to work in the theater—for those moments in the rehearsal room that lead to something revelatory, something glorious or more than anything I could accomplish on my own. No money is exchanged, and in the very best moments transcendence feels within reach.

One major struggle I’ve been dealing with, though certainly not the only one, is finances. I feel like I don’t make enough to live. I mean, I do, but then there’s rent, student loans that are almost as high as my rent, utilities and other bills, food, and random crap that comes out of nowhere right when you least expect it. Like my kitty Oskar needing to go to the emergency room on Saturday. I have pet insurance, but it’s the type where you pay it all upfront and then submit a claim. I was worried about having enough funds between what’s left on my credit card and what’s left in my bank account to cover it. Luckily, that all worked out, and he come home earlier (and more affordably) then originally expected.

I would put off things that might help some of my other problems and stress, like seeing a therapist, because I was afraid of the copay being too high. It’s often been a game of “can my bank account hold out until the next paycheck comes through?” “Will I have enough to cover the next bill that comes in?” It’s so stressful and so frustrating. I start feeling guilty and beating myself up if I do something “fun” like buying something I don’t need (like the patio chairs and tiny little grill I bought a few weeks ago) or ordering food on days I’m exhausted. Ordering food is extra guilt-inducing because I feel financially irresponsible AND fat at the same time. Between working in publishing and writing plays, I feel like I have one job that pays poorly and another that doesn’t pay at all.

So it’s really refreshing to see this essay talk about the idea of transcendence over transaction. The times careerwise that I’ve felt most confident and happy were when I had moments like this. One I love looking back on is my first Boston Playwrights’ Theatre holiday party. Jake was making a speech about how wonderful the local theatre community is and how great it is to belong to it. I had this moment of “wow, this is really what I want to be doing with my life” where it all sort of made sense. I also felt a lot of this clarity when I got to go on the Freedom Art Retreat last year. It was a whole week of collaborating, of feeling like I could actually contribute to a group of artists and have something important to offer, and of knowing that the things we created together were better than what would have resulted if I’d attempted it myself.

It’s little moments like this that I have to think back to when things get particularly stressful. It’s good that I was reminded of it at a time when I’m trying to get everything in my life back on track. Knowing that eventually things at work will get better, that that will help the finances fall into place, and that my whole life shouldn’t be spent letting this anxiety get to me because I risk missing out on the moments that make all of this worth it.

AND I just realized we have chicken nuggets in the freezer, so I don’t have to grill the chicken that I’m not entirely convinced is still fresh! Lazy dinner that does not involve spending money on ordering food. yay!

*EDIT: I just want to add that the rest of the article goes on to say pretty much exactly how I feel about the state of theatre in this country and it’s a great read. I was just jumping off one little quote that felt really personally relevant right now.

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