10 things your freelancer friend wants to say.

(This post was written on Saturday 0046hrs, but published at 1143hrs)

It’s 46 minutes past midnight. After two hours of trying and failing to fall asleep, I’ve decided it’s not working out. I should do something else. So here I am.

Rewind to 2245hrs, Friday night: I had gone to bed early with hopes of sleeping away a throbbing headache. Lying in pain alone in the dark led me instead to circle black thoughts, including but not limited to the unanswerable question of WhatTheHellAmIDoingTryingToWriteSlashEditFreelanceForALiving, which from here on I shall refer collectively to as The Black Hole.

Some minutes later, I leave the blackness of the bedroom to look for The Husband, who is in the living room, in the middle of a very exciting PS4 game.

“Um. I’m feeling depressed,” I mumble.

“Oh. How come?” The Husband dutifully pauses the game and follows me back into the den. I crawl back under the covers. In sweet and wise Husbandly fashion he gently asks why I’m suddenly feeling low.

“Idontknowbutijustfeellikeidontknowwhatimdoingandifimdoingwhatiwant,” I say into the pillow.

“What do you want?”

“Idontknow.”

The conversation goes on like this for a while, until I burst into tears. The dam is broken and I’m sobbing like there’s no tomorrow. (I feel embarrassed just typing this now.) The Husband, who’s sitting on the floor beside the bed, alternates between stroking my hair, kissing my forehead, and patting my hand.

“You’re doing great,” he says.

“Imnot…Ithinkimnot.”

The Sagely Husband manages to ask me enough questions that beckon me away from The Black Hole. I realise that a) I’m still getting used to the idea of not having a “proper” full-time job, b) I do want to make this freelancing thing work, c) This is me freaking out.

C is kind of obvious, but it took getting to the point my sinuses were so blocked that I couldn’t breathe to know I was there.

Now, with more calm and clarity than before, I sit before my laptop to send a few thoughts out into the world:

1. If like me, you’re a freelancer who has her moments of soul-crushing doubts about the wisdom/sustainability of a freelance gig, you’re not alone.

The grass on the other side is always greener. When you're a freelancer, it's tempting to look back on your stable 9-5 gig and wonder. Don't.
Q. Which is greener? A. None; they’re different shades. Awesome visual of a black hole: NASA Childish illustration: Yuling Li

2. If you’re considering whether to leave a well-paying* job to go freelance, let me tell you from this side of the meadow that it is great (I’m still happy I made the move), but you do need to be very clear about your reason(s) for the change to tide yourself over dark moments such as the one described above. *Depending on your definition, well-paying can mean really high, enough to pay the bills, or simply steady.

3. The proverbial grass is always greener on the other side, and the unknowable future is always scarier when you think about it. Try not to look back too often or linger around The Black Hole for too long. Pushing WorstCaseScenario thoughts out of mind (or better, reasoning your way through them) should keep you out of The Black Hole. Mostly.

4. If you’re the sort who needs and thrives on stability, know that freelancing can be anything but. However, you’d probably also have mapped out a systematic plan that lists your next 10 steps and 10 backups for each step that doesn’t work, so you’ll be fine.

5. If you’re in the position to hire freelancers for your company, please be nice to us. Creative work is undervalued in this economy, and freelancers typically get the shorter end of the stick. Please pay reasonably and on time.

6. To concerned family and friends, I am fine. (Sorry for making you worry!) As The Husband gently reminded me, I am pleased about the things I do, have done, and am about to do. The Black Hole blocked this out for a bit. And, even if I write shit, he will always enjoy reading it (The Husband didn’t exactly say this, but I know that’s the subtext).

7. To all you out there who believe freelancers have a good life: Yes, it’s great that we have freedom. There is also insecurity (we know, we chose it), and this affects people in different ways. Some don’t ever show it. Thanks for envying us, but don’t make us feel bad for having “free” time during your office hours. Our decision costs us in ways you might not know. Oh yes, I must add that mums who freelance aren’t “free”; freelancing is work they do on top of full-time motherhood. (I’m not a mum but plenty of my friends are.) Let’s not compare and be supportive instead, shall we?

8. Conversely, to those of you who believe going freelance is career kamikaze, we actually know what you’re thinking when you respond to our news with the loaded “Oh”, “Oh but WHY?” or “Are you sure?”

9. Women who leave full-time jobs to go freelance often do so for reasons other than a) making babies or b) becoming a tai-tai — the Singaporean term for lady of leisure / rich man’s wife. The switch may or may not be temporary, and if you ask nicely, you’ll find out that personal development and long-term career planning rank among the top reasons.

10. To supporters: Thank You. God knows everyone needs cheerleaders in their lives. This post is many things (an ill-disguised complaint about the abuses endured by freelancers being one), but I wanted, above all, to thank The Husband for being my beacon. After all, words are what I have — lots too.

Bye-bye Black Hole, for now.

[Photo of light seen from hole: Grafontour]

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