the guilt in freelancing

They don’t tell you, in freelancing school, how great the potential for enormous amounts of guilt is, coming at you from all directions and every angle, pew pew pew. Maybe that’s because there is actually no Freelancing School. If there were, there ought be a class called Warmth vs. Freedom: The Pants/No-Pants Divide. Oh, and Are You Really Going to Eat That, Over the Sink, With Your Hands? Isolation and the Freelancer’s Fragile Dignity and Self-Respect. But mostly, You Will Work Every Hour and Regret the Hours You Don’t Work, and When You Are Waiting For More Work to Come in You Will Panic Because You’re Not Working and the Idea of Sleeping in Just a Little or Even Watching a Movie Fills You with Shame. That might be a little long for a class title, though.

So for the past two weeks or so, I’ve had a handful of rush jobs, for the proofreading people I work for. Of course I said “Yay, money! Bring it on! Kitty needs a new bag of kibble!” and said yes to everything that was offered me, and it was great because I was very very busy, and feeling very, very busy makes me panic far less about paying the rent and making my car payments and the gigantic, enormo gas bill that made me burst into tears when I opened it.

When I have proofreading work to do, I forget about life/work boundaries completely. I work all day, and I work all night, and I work while I’m eating and I work all weekend. I don’t work as quickly as I ought, a lot of the time, because I get distracted by the internet –look up a product name, quick-check email, twenty minutes later I  have learned a great deal about the history of the zipper and also Jessica Simpson’s weight gain and watched a video of a cute kitten and then I realize that maybe videos of cute kittens and J.Simp’s butt and the zipper, as fascinating as it is, are not all paying the bills and so it is back to the salt mines for me. Do they really mine salt? I should look that up.

I finish my chapters in good time, because I am very brave and do not let my internet problem interfere with my work (to excess). But if I finish a chapter, and I have six more chapters to do, even if they are due a week from now I cannot possibly say Oh! They are due a week from now! I can be a normal person and just go paint my toenails. But no! Chapters! To do! No rest for the crazy! And I will work until I realize that I have not read a single word for the past three pages and then I will go lie down and get up tomorrow and fill my entire day again, morning to night, with work.

And now the work is finished, and I had a whole free day yesterday, and I didn’t know what to do with it. I spent it spinning around in circles looking confused, and then I went to lie down for awhile, and then I wandered around, and then I put my head under a pillow and wept for awhile, and then I went back to bed. I was confused and shell-shocked and bowed under the great weight of terrible guilt because I was not accomplishing anything that was going to buy me a loaf of bread and I am also kind of a dope. And relieved when I got another email today, because another job is starting up.

Maybe when I’m sure that the work I’m doing can pay the bills, I’ll settle down, relax, plan a little better, be a little less frantic, allow myself weekends, and remember that freelancing has all kinds of benefits that keep people doing it despite the drawbacks and maybe it would be nice to enjoy that a little, hello?

6 Replies to “the guilt in freelancing”

  1. I wish someone had offered me that course with the really long name. I’ve been doing this for a year and a half now and I still can’t find the balance between working hard when there is work to do and chilling the heck out when there isn’t.

    People warn you about the ebbs & flows but they don’t give you any instructions on how to deal with them like a sane person.

  2. I admire you for being a freelancer. I’ve thought about it, and come to the conclusion I am not a good candidate for it. The bill collection would be what would do me in. I would be forever blowing off asking people to pay me, because it is cringe-inducing just thinking about it. Thus it would be more “free” than anything else.

    BTW, yes, they do mine salt! I saw it on “Dirty Jobs.”

  3. I thought I was the only one freaking out when there is too much to do, maniacal really, but listless and instantly depressed when the work is over. “Special” breed, I guess…

  4. If it makes you feel any better, I have a full-time-pants-required job and I also burst into tears when I opened my gas bill. And my AmEx bill. Well, OK, all the bills.

  5. There is literally nothing I can freelance at.

    “Will do chemistry experiments for $$$.”

    “Can fence for food.”

    There are no pant-less options. In fact, for the second one, I need specially designed pants. And silly socks.

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