Live the dream. Follow your passion. Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life. We’ve seen these sentences before. On Facebook walls and internet blogs in recent years, the ‘follow your passion’ mantra has become overbearingly present wherever you look. People ‘stuck’ in a job are forever made to feel bad or incomplete, and freelancers who are trying to make careers out of their passions are put on pedestals.
But not all who pursue their passions tap-dance to work every day, as is the general rhetoric. As a freelancer who has ventured into full-time writing for the last nine months – and with success – here are a few not-so-bright moments of my day.
I think of money much more than before
Whoever said ‘follow your passion and the money will come’ must have had a 9-to-5 job. I quit my job after having made significant financial plans (I saved up two years’ expenses, for one), but I found that in the absence of a regular paycheck that hits your account ‘by rote’ every month, your mind does constantly veer towards money, especially how to make it. Whereas before I would take a rather cavalier approach to book advances and negotiations, now I’ve become that much more ruthless in selling myself and my work. In spite of all that, I only just about break even – i.e. I make the same amount as I used to before I quit. Let me tell you one thing. Money never, ever, comes on its own. You must go after it with a sledgehammer.
I (sometimes) struggle with motivation
The popular image of a freelancer is that they love working because it’s their passion. But just like you cannot love your wife every moment of every day, you cannot love your work every moment of every day either. For many people working on their own, discipline and motivation remain difficult things to master. While at a regular job you could ‘coast’ for a few hours and still get paid, we don’t have that option, so we must make the most of all the time we have. Sometimes it can be daunting.
Self-doubt is a constant companion
Just the other day a friend of mine said, ‘I am doing well, but I just don’t know where next month’s money is going to come from.’ That’s a rather apt way of putting it. Especially in writing, all pay is back-loaded, which means that there is always a possibility that the book you’re writing will not be sold. At the time of writing this, I’ve made eleven book sales, but I still worry about my twelfth. What if my books become such duds that no one will touch my next one with so much as a bean-pole? What if I lose all my writing ability in one night? What if I am not able to maintain the pace/quality/consistency of the last few months? What if, what if, what if.
I actively dislike certain aspects of my job
This is one thing that people are never prepared for. No matter what your passion is, there will be something about it that you will not like but are forced to do to survive in the business. For most writers the bugbear is marketing and promotion. Hell, if we were naturally good at those things, why would we choose to sit down by ourselves and speak to our keyboards for hours on end every day? For sportspeople it’s warm up. For business owners it’s admin and payroll. No matter what your passion is, once you begin doing it for a living, expect to find elements of it that you dislike but cannot walk away from.
I still work for a boss
The common misconception about freelancers is that they’re their own boss. Nothing could be further from the truth. The people who pay us – in an author’s case, the publishers – are our bosses. While it is true that you get more negotiating room, in return for that freedom you will be viewed as an expert, and your work will be held to a very high standard. So the work ethic and professionalism needed to ‘get by’ is much higher in a freelancing career than it is in a ‘regular’ job.
Are you a freelancer or do you know someone who is? Would you like to share your experiences below, both positive and negative? Don’t feel shy, and let rip.
Image courtesy: Superconsciousness