Being an independent contractor—or freelancer—can be described in many ways. I choose to use the words of a writer much more famous than me to do so:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . . it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. …” (A Tale of Two Cities)
Charles Dickens could well have been describing the 37 years I’ve spent as an independent contractor.
One the one hand, I have had the freedom to work from home, to work while I travel, to work the hours I choose, and to do the work I enjoy.
On the other hand, I have had to work into the wee hours of the morning—three days straight at one time—in order to meet a deadline, work on vacation, work through holidays, work when I’m sick, and taken work I did not enjoy in order to pay my bills.
That said, I would not, at this juncture in my career as a freelance writer, editor, copyeditor, proofreader, ghostwriter, fixer of all things grammatical, choose any other way of life.
Well, maybe I would choose to work in the Florida Keys surrounded by six-toed cats, but in lieu of that, working from my home office with my Maltipoo, Sheba, and my boy-kitty, Dickens, seated nearby, is my idea of the best workplace environment.
Again, that said, the work has not always been sufficient to pay the bills, let alone appease any longing for luxury goods. In “the best of times”, freelancing is feast or famine, and lately, it ain’t been the best of times, Charlie.
The publishing world suffered a major setback, as did most every other business, in the economic downturn of the past few years. Newspapers have halted their presses. Publishing houses have closed their books. Magazines have folded. Not only has this affected who is willing to buy my work, or hire me for any editorial work, it has also let loose into the freelance pool a whole slew of displaced writers and editors, some willing to work for much less than I can afford to.
Nevertheless, my experience has served me well over the past 37 years. Experience still counts to many companies, or to the author who needs a tested and successful editor to polish their manuscript. Someone always has a story to tell, a thesis to write, a fact to check, or a website to fill with interesting and informative content.
The key is, and always has been, to ‘pound the pavement’ every single day, network like there’s no tomorrow, study your craft, study someone else’s craft, expand your knowledge, venture into new territory, and, when all else fails, sell a kidney.
And really, at the end of the day, I can still say, with Dickens:
“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done. …”