What Makes Freelancers Unstoppable?
On pushing ourselves to see how far we might go
Whose demands are you trying to meet?
As a freelancer, you’re probably your harshest critic.
After losing five years of my life to major depressive disorder during which I could neither think nor write, I still approach my craft with monomaniacal devotion. This isn’t anything new. I have the tendency to sacrifice a lot in the name of vocation, willingly.
Then again, vocation is my saving grace and I’m very lucky to have it. Since it has endured and survived against all odds, I’ve tasked it with helping me rebuild a life that works, word by word. But as long as reward isn’t commensurate to effort, I must keep going above and beyond what could be reasonably expected of a writer in a professional setting.
When your income depends on audience engagement and you shun clickbait out of respect for said audience, you don’t exactly set yourself up for success.
Your paycheck would be far less modest if you wrote listicles stuffed with other people’s quotes, and rehashed truisms.
Undiscerning readers will seek comfort in filler copy that echoes their recycled opinions. Curious readers, meanwhile, will be after thought-provoking writing that engages them.
Although we don’t always succeed, many of us strive for the latter.
When it comes to freelancing, strive is apt.
Freelancing can make for high levels of unpredictability, not least financially. For many of us there’s no such thing as the comfort and peace of mind that come with knowing exactly what to expect at the end of the month.
For me, being able to work at any time of day or night from anywhere fits in with the complex demands of my non-standard life. As I help my parents navigate the ever-changing realities of Stage IV cancer in France and establish an EU base for the rest of the year, everything is in flux. Even when I’m not in the Pacific Northwest I tend to keep US hours.
The trade off is that I don’t get anywhere near enough sleep, something that isn’t uncommon at all among freelancers. Those of us on the lower end of the pay scale have the kind of work ethics seldom found among employees.
Because there’s nowhere to hide and we are accountable for everything we put out, we hold ourselves to high standards.
In other words, when your work is sub-par you only have yourself to blame. And there’s no one to fix it for you either.
With so much pressure, it’s easy to end up feeling like you never do enough.
And forget you’re fallible, just like all other humans.
What are you capable of?
Being completely in charge of your work life without anyone to report to but yourself can be empowering and even addictive when you’re doing something you feel passionate about.
Can you write a new life into existence if you’re prepared to put in the work?
As I mine my personal life for copy, I’m trying to find out how powerful words can be, something I’ve only ever experienced from a reader’s perspective. Hadn’t it been for books, I would never have survived five years under the yoke of depression and I would no longer be able to string words together either.
Also, work brings me respite as the page is the only safe space I have, the one constant in a very topsy-turvy life once again lacking bearings and fixed geographical coordinates.
Carrying out a public excavation of the self and making the contents of one’s head and heart inspectable to all is counter-intuitive. And yet, it’s oddly life-affirming, too, as it means jettisoning fear of judgment and embracing self-expression.
In your own words.
You will fail.
When you put so much pressure on yourself that your goals remain unattainable, time has come to re-assess parameters. Being realistic about what you can do is key to not letting yourself down.
And yet, setting objectives that are beyond your comfort zone is essential to growth because it’ll force you to stretch and meet them. Just to prove to yourself you can, because you thrive on challenges, or both.
With writing, it’s impossible to follow in anyone else’s footsteps, regardless of what the listicle typists tell you, as your voice is your own.
There are no shortcuts or quick fixes, just trial, error, iteration, and dedication.
So if you feel you never do enough, don’t panic. It means you’re highly motivated, committed to your craft, and driven.
In short, you’re probably experiencing growing pains.
I’m a French-American writer and journalist living out of a suitcase in motion between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.