In a couple of weeks I will be driving my new(ish) car to and from my new(ish) office contract in Northampton. I will be getting dressed every morning and making face-to-face conversation with people on an almost daily basis. I’m very excited… you know, between the crippling panic attacks and paralysing fear.
A Freelancer’s Guide to Sleeping on the Job
“You could write a book about napping,” says David as we complete our evening walk around the neighbourhood- a habit that we might soon have to forego when winter saps away the day time.
He’s trying to be mock me, but Jesus, he’s right.
On the 17th of April, I bit back some sentimental tears and hugged all of my beloved colleagues at That’s It as Head of Content once last time before taking myself off for a consolatory toasted sarmie and glass of wine.
I try to believe that all people are inherently good, that people are not so much malicious as they are self-centred. I really think that most of the time, people aren’t out to screw you so much as they just genuinely don’t care about you- they’re more concerned with their own jobs, or families or issues.
You, innocent bystander, are just in the way.
I love writing. Really, really love it.
I don’t always have the inclination to do it, but when I finally do drag myself away from the myriad distractions in my flat, I do, genuinely, love it.
But you know what else I love?
Not so much just having money, but rather what it affords. It can pay for the roof over your head and the food in your fridge. It can pay for that cute new pair of shoes, or that dress that you’ll ‘totally wear all the time’. It also buys security, status and confidence.
Having money means choosing whatever you feel like off the menu. It means not having to carry a calculator in one hand when doing your grocery shopping. It means being able to travel, being able to go to the movies, to the theatre. I know I’m unintentionally quoting Malema, but money really is freedom.
It can however, also be a trap.
When I got my first pay cheque, I was beyond elated. It was just enough to pay for my bachelor flat (read: converted garage) apartment and keep me in baked beans and toast for the rest of the month.
Over the years, I have worked hard to climb up the ladder, and have used the number at the bottom of my payslip as a measure of my skills and my worth. Any time I received a promotion, or let’s be honest- a pay raise- it was an affirmation of my abilities, and of myself. Giving me more money means you like me! You really like me!
Without me realising it, that number at the bottom of my payslip became more important than the hours of my life I had traded for it. Like I said, I really love writing. Getting a creative brief, fulfilling it and then getting paid- it doesn’t even feel like work sometimes.
But in recent months, I have come to realise I was doing less and less of what I loved, and more and more of what I ‘had to do’ to see that magic number at the end of the month.
More importantly, I had come to realise that the hours of my life I was pawing off have far greater value to me than that number. Hours that could have been spent challenging myself, or reading great books, learning a new skill, hanging out with loved ones, walking in the park, video games. The quality of my life had become worse, not better, by using money as my qualifier for my success.
The cost of money had become too high.
Recent news about my partner’s serious health condition cemented what is still a scary decision, even as I eagerly await the passing of the next 2.5 weeks for this decision to actualise.
I quit my damn job, yo.
Yes, I’m scared about paying the rent every month, yes, I’m scared of building up my freelance network and yes I’m worried about making a big financial decision while we are staring down the barrel of 4 months of chemotherapy. But I’m also excited about the prospect of being far more wealthy and fulfilled where my time is concerned, and really- time is our greatest asset in life. How we spend our time, I think, counts for more than how we spend our cash.
So what am I going to do with all this free time that promises to sprawl out in front of me like a drunken debutante?
You’re goddamn right, Napoleon.
I hope you don’t mind my over familiarity, but during the many, many weeks of unrequited correspondence from me to you practically begging for the payment we agreed upon, I feel like we’ve grown close enough for us to toss around a couple of pet names.
It’s always sunshine and roses when you meet a new freelance client for this first time. They tell you what they want, you tell them what you think they want to hear and there are a few, beautiful, shining moments where you both believe that the two of you were brought together by fate to create something magical, or at least, marketable. It’s like a first date where one of you really hopes to get paid for doing what the other person wants…