Why I’m Thankful to Be a Freelancer
March 2017 was a mixed month for me. That month I paid off my credit card debt, a goal which took me over a year to achieve. I received a tax refund that helped me beef up my emergency savings. But soon after these milestones, I was let go from my part-time job.
I walked into my job just like I would any other Monday morning. One of my bosses sat me down in a conference room to inform me that the company was laying me off. I had until the following month to find a new job. Though I had already been seeking another job, it didn’t feel good to be broken up with first. I knew I wasn’t ready to go freelance, but it looked like I had no choice. Thankfully, I earned enough during a subsequent contract writing gig to bolster my emergency fund before diving into freelancing full-time.
I started thinking about this after the Mic layoff story broke—news that follows slew of other prominent publication layoffs and shuttering of outlets like Refinery29 and LennyLetter. It seems like every other day brings news of a publication closing its doors or laying off portions its staff.
Freelancing is difficult and quite precarious, but I’ve been very grateful to be a freelancer right now. If you’re feeling like the sky is falling (for staffers and freelancers), you’re not wrong. But here’s why, at least for now, I’m grateful to be a freelancer:
The possibilities of work are infinite.
For one thing, there’s always work for me when I wake up in the morning. If I don’t have enough work, my job for the day is to pitch stories and seek clients. If I have enough — or, per usual, a little too much — work, I have to tackle it and get to my clients on-time and clean. It’s not exactly the traditional version of job security, but it feels good to know I can make a living without being dependent on one company.
You can write whatever you want for whomever you want.
If I had a full-time job, I’d likely — given my age and career stage — be covering a specific beat and thus unable to write about stories that fall out of that scope. The great thing about freelancing is that if one editor doesn’t want my story, I take it to another. I’m usually able to place it elsewhere, ensuring that my ideas don’t die or live in a idea Google doc purgatory.
Sometimes while I’m out at industry events, I meet recently laid off journalists right after they lost their job. You often can hear the relief/fear in their voice as they detail how they’ve left a troubled newsroom but aren’t sure what will happen next. If I get another full-time job one day, which I hope to do, I’ll know how to function in an office environment. And if I suddenly lose my job for whatever reason, I’ll know that I’m capable of building a freelance business to support myself. It may take time to do so, but it’s comforting.
You’ll get better at negotiating.
There’s so many articles about how to negotiate your salary at a staff job. In truth, it’s super awkward to advocate for yourself whether you’re a freelancer or a staff journalist. The difference is that freelancers are more frequently thinking about how much stories costs to produce (transportation, equipment, research, etc.) Sites like Contently or Who Pays Writers fill in some of the wage information gap for freelancers in the same way that PayScale or Salary.com display salary information for staffers. The more I’ve negotiated my freelance wages, the more I’ve become comfortable with asking for a fair wage. As a business owner, I’m also want to meet my income goals for the year.
Not everyone should be a freelancer. It’s a tough way to make a living. But as our industry continues to figure out the internet-age business model, I intend to carefully look for jobs and make an independent living watching safely from afar.
Are you grateful to be a freelancer? If so, why? Tell me in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.