Tips for Freelancers

Party of One: The Secret Life of an American Freelancer

  • December 7, 2015
  • Shannon Durio
  • 4 minutes

Being a freelance writer is sexy. I mean, hello, Carrie Bradshaw. Imagine Carrie typing away in her sophisticated brownstone on the Upper East Side. If this is how you picture me right now … yes. Just yes. Just yes.

Clean, distraction-free workspace ✓
Adequate lighting ✓
Clean, flowy locks ✓
Designer shaggy sweater ✓

Now … imagine the opposite.

I was a fairly normal human before I took the graceful leap of faith to freelancing full-time. It was a carefully considered, well thought-out plan that began immediately after my boss delicately sang me the “it’s not me, it’s you” farewell chorus. I was actually thrilled to begin my career as an independent contractor because, well … #YOLO. (Is that still a thing?)

I wish I was your Freelance Jedi, here to share healthy habits for the effective solopreneur. The truth is, I am desperately searching for a therapist (preferably a freelance therapist who specializes in desperate emails at 3 a.m. and Post-traumatic Writers Block Syndrome) to help me navigate the slightly-less-than-normal situations I now encounter daily.

Carrie Bradshaw never warned me about what working from home … alone … does to a person.

When I first launched into the world of full-time freelance, visions of sugarplums danced in my head. I would be master of my own domain, powering through projects with a cup of tea, running five miles on my lunch break and having a feast waiting for my husband when he got home from work.

None of that has happened.

The truth is, since my computer does not talk back to me, I incessantly crave human interaction. The mailman is now the highlight of my day. I began to anticipate his arrival so much, I’d throw the front door wide open just as he walked up our front steps.

Scared the bajeezus out of him.

Every. Single. Day.

Clearly, I felt like we were friends (cue: therapist).

Once, he delivered a paycheck I had been waiting on for weeks, and I elegantly bellowed, “Holla for a dolla, y’all!” as he turned to leave.

I never saw my friend again. They must have changed his route.

I guess I should focus on carpe-ing the diem, and not carpe-ing the paychecks out of the hands of dedicated postal workers.

I thought maybe being around other human beings would help my plight (and force me to change out of my polka dot pajama pants), so I packed up my trusty laptop and headed off to work remotely from our local Panera. Every best practice in the proverbial Freelancer’s Guide to Becoming a Billionaire says that a change of scenery helps with creative inspiration. Nothing inspires me more than a cinnamon crunch bagel, so I obliged.

I spent sufficient time “setting up shop” (that’s just a taste of the cool, outdated lingo I like to use to make myself feel productive). Then, my gaze drifted to another lone ranger. She was typing furiously on her laptop, and I thought, “Man! She is inspired! ” The thought briefly crossed my mind that she might be a normal 9-to-5’er, or just a normal human being typing a Facebook status. But then I saw she was wearing yoga pants, which is basically The Uniform for us solopreneurs.

I decided that we were obviously kindred spirits and should be BFFs. Freelancers unite! Then I remembered the mailman incident and acknowledged that my internal “healthy social network radar” was not to be trusted. I realized I should probably leave Rapid Typer alone and focus on my own work. So I put an extra shot of espresso in my latte and let the caffeine work its magic.

This freelance gig … it’s not for the faint of heart. There’s a steep learning curve and all sorts of crazy, but I honestly wouldn’t change it for anything. Maybe one day I will run five miles on my lunch break, but my husband has already permanently banned me from the kitchen. I am discovering that this journey is exhilarating and exhausting, but I get to do what I love and get paid for it (holla!). Not everybody gets to say that.

However, I just might need that therapist.

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