n my former 9-to-5 (aka wage slave) life, I worked first as a newspaper reporter, then as a publicist at a book publishing company. I made the decision to work for myself, partly on a whim, when I decided to move from New York to San Francisco. I had my own little cheesy Scarlett O’Hara moment of shaking my first at the sky and declaring, “As god is my witness, I’ll never punch a clock again.” Basically, I felt like I didn’t fit the 9-to-5 mold – back then I considered 9 a.m. the middle of the night – and I wanted out, by any means necessary. I wasn’t getting paid much working in book publishing anyway, so making the leap to self-employment hardly seemed like a financial risk at the time.
What is your favorite part about being a freelancer? Your least favorite?
I love being able to choose the people I work with, the projects I take on, the hours I work. And setting your own rates is a beautiful thing – no more begging the boss for a paltry cost-of-living wage increase. On the flip side, being responsible for your own benefits (health insurance, retirement fund) and not getting paid for administrative chores such as invoicing and negotiating contracts are some of the concessions you make as a self-employed person.
Did you have any fear about the uncertainty of not having a steady paycheck? How did you overcome it?
I actually didn’t, I think because I was making so little money at my day job anyway. Plus, I was young (24) and under the delusion that credit cards were the equivalent of interest-free paycheck advances (how wrong I was!). Once I was knee-deep in self-employment though, I began to worry about money. To supplement my income those first couple years in business, I took odd jobs – as a personal assistant to a fabulously wealthy person, as a summertime nanny for a couple of grade-schoolers, as a typist for grad students who’d hand-written their dissertations (really – this was 1992, when having a personal computer was like having a flatscreen TV), you name it. During those early years, I also made sure I had my hand in as many freelance pots as possible – proofreading, copyediting, publicity, copywriting. Having additional skills to market helped me diversify my income.