What to expect when you’re freelancing

This weekend I tallied up the money that I’ve made from freelance jobs so far this year. I’m always worried about my financial contributions to the family since I quit my day job nearly three years ago with the promise that I’d make loads of money freelancing. My husband was skeptical, but I assured him that I’d be able to do it, while taking care of the house and the kids. It hasn’t worked out quite the way I’d have liked it to. In three years, I’ve never been able to match the number that I set out as an annual goal, though I came closest last year, due to a last-minute rush-job that because of the size of the job and the extremely abbreviated schedule, the company basically threw money at us to get it done. Over Christmas, no less.

I’ve worked pretty much steadily since quitting the dreaded day job, but the pay hasn’t come up to even a third of what I made before. By the end of this year, it won’t even be a quarter of my original salary. Part of me is stressed out about this. Why not? I’m stressed out about everything else. But there’s a part of me that isn’t worried. Fortunately, it’s a larger part.

The fact is, I’m home with the kids every day. And they are both doing beautifully because of it. I know that the kind of attention they get from me isn’t possible with a sitter. I am very particular about rounding out their education (I was a teacher) and how they spend their free time (playdates, swimming lessons, violin lessons, playing, exploring, climbing! breaking stuff! etc.)

Between freelance jobs, I have time to work on my own fiction projects. And while none of them have panned out so far, that doesn’t mean they won’t. Even if the stories that I’m writing now are never sold, my writing is getting steadily better, so for me it’s time well-spent. A writing investment, let’s say.

Plus there’s the fact that I’m always writing. Granted, the writing is restricted to what I’m being paid to write, but people are paying me to write! I kind of welcome the crazy convoluted requirements, because it forces my mind to think in really creative ways.

And of course, there are the other small things I don’t have to worry about without a day job: transportation, eating out, annoying co-workers. The stress is the same. There’s no medical.

But I love working for myself. I love that I’m in charge of what I do and what I don’t. I love that I’m not trying to follow a company’s credo or a manager with no  leadership skills, or dealing with co-worker drama. 99% of the time I’m not lonely. I’m very solitary anyway. And when I do feel lonely, there’s facebook, blogs and nights out with friends. Every time I start to panic and think I should go back to a steady day job, I think of all the things I’d miss: the kids, mostly; the freedom to organize my day however I want; the view from my office window; my own personal bathroom!

Freelancing isn’t for everyone. I have friends who’ve done it and recently gave up and returned to regular jobs. And they’re both miserable right now despite being better paid. It’s hard to work for other people. Even when freelance jobs have me stressed, I know I’m still working for ME.

But that’s my experience. Tough, but definitely preferable. Little money, but the kids are doing great. Writing all the time. If I can help it, I’m never going back to an office job.