Based in Chicago, Illinois, The Freelance Beat is a blog exploring the triumphs and challenges that freelance journalists encounter in their early and mid-careers.

On working to live

On working to live

If you follow my personal Twitter, you know that last week I was stressed about money—not making it, but spending it. 

I was a bit apprehensive about buying little stuff I’ve been meaning to purchase for my apartment for a while: new towels, sheets, cute bowls and other little things I needed. I bought some of these things in store and online. 

The irony is that I had done my billing that Friday, and therefore knew how much money I had coming my way. My bills were paid. I had food in my refrigerator and a roof over my head. It’s not like I was out buying expensive purses, jewelry and clothes, though my Instagram ads know that I secretly want to buy these things, too. 

Anybody who knows me well knows that I grew up in a single-parent low income household. It was not all bad. In fact, it’s safe to say that my mom and my grandparents would move heaven and earth to make me happy. But we had our limits. We always had a place to stay and food to eat, but there were luxuries that we live without—luxuries I suspect my peers took for granted. 

Now that I am an adult, I feel the pangs of my upbringing whenever making financial decisions. My mother sometimes tells me that I will “hold a nickel until it cries.” She’s not wrong. Watching my family work hard for everything that they have has been both a blessing and a curse, the latter of which arises whenever I have to spend money on something that on its surface doesn’t appear to be an immediate need.

I know this about myself, and so I set out to address this problem last year. In Fall 2018, I decided to open a bank account at a black-owned bank, which I had been meaning to do for some time anyway. Long-time readers of this blog will remember that 2018 was my first calendar full-time year of freelancing, a period during which I had to prove to myself that I was capable of working for myself. 

Toward the end of the year, it hit me. I looked forward to the holidays, because I knew it was a time when I’d be able to truly relax, not only because I can be myself with my family but also because most of the working world would take that time off, too. Many who are lucky enough to have full-time jobs also have the benefit of paid time off. However, as a self-employed person, it’s up to me to not only decide when to take time, I have to notify my clients and weigh the need for relaxation against my desire to hit income goals. And as a twenty-something who’s been out of school for a few years, it’s still odd to not have breaks defined by my education.

So, once I opened this bank account, I set aside a small amount of money every month, an amount I knew I wouldn’t miss but was substantial enough to hit my target in a timely fashion. I did this in months I could afford to do so, and passed during months I couldn’t. Eventually, I amassed enough to start taking small, domestic trips. I hope to start traveling more early next year. 

I know I have a hard time when you’re spending money on things or experiences if it’ll disrupt my financial life, but having a “fun fund” eases my mind. My grandma and mom are always encouraging me to take time for myself and do nice things to myself. Soon, I’ll be taking their advice. 

How do you make space for fun in your freelance life? Tell me in the comments or email me at contact@thefreelancebeat.com



Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Rates

Getting Comfortable with Uncomfortable Rates

Organizations that Support Freelancers

Organizations that Support Freelancers