So, I don’t have a boss.
Whenever I meet someone new and tell them I’m a freelance journalist, they ask what that’s like. I always quote David Carr and say, “It beats working for a living!” and mostly leave it at that. But I’ve been thinking about the real answer.
I tell people what I do for a living and I know it sounds luxurious as hell. I can go hiking on a Tuesday afternoon. Last Thursday, I wrote a story in the car on the way to the Poconos and then skied for hours. I wear pajamas almost all day, almost all the time. Whenever I want a peanut butter and fluff sandwich, I can get up and go make one. In my pajamas.
And that stuff is all definitely awesome. But when I started this whole full-time freelance journey a few months ago, somehow I thought it would go a little… I don’t know… smoother? It’s been a pretty bumpy ride.
Let’s start here: I’m still super poor. In some ways, this is incredibly motivating. When I do sell a high-dollar story, it’s the biggest deal, and totally worth celebrating. I spend a lot of time chasing that feeling, and when I eventually make enough to cover my rent it’s so satisfying.
The other side of that coin is, of course, the part where I’m super poor. So far I haven’t established what I’d consider a “regular income,” and that’s constantly anxiety-inducing. There are a lot of days when this feels like a pipe dream, and like it’d be much easier to go back to riding a desk. It also means I’m often tempted to take jobs that pay far less than I know I’m worth, or write things that don’t totally line up with my tenets of journalistic integrity.
Then there’s the crazy. Being a freelancer means strapping in to an emotional rollercoaster every single day. I devote hours to mining freelance job boards, researching stories and pitching editors. It’s like going on a dozen job interviews in an afternoon, and a lot of my emails never even get responses. A lot of great ideas go to waste, and it’s easy to get disillusioned with the process.
But then – then – somebody says yes, and I get to do a great interview, write a great story and know people are reading it. And on those days, it’s all totally worth it.
Plus, honestly, my dogs have the best life.