There’s a lot I’m still getting used to about the freelancer lifestyle. One of the biggest that I’ve had to make peace with, (and I haven’t BTW), is the unpredictability.
You never know, not for sure anyways, where the next paycheck will come from. You never know, not for sure anyways, that when you’re done with this client or this project that there will be another waiting for you. Even if you build a successful enough career, you never know, not for sure anyways, that it won’t dry up sooner or later.
And I knew that before going in. It’s one of the reasons I didn’t start freelancing the moment I moved to Atlanta. Seriously, for the first 6 months I was applying for boring day job after boring day job. Because boring day jobs are just that, but they also come with things like insurance and paid leave. Predictability.
I feel like a traitor to my own dreams, but a part of me knows that if someone offered me a boring day job tomorrow, with regular pay and benefits, I would seriously consider taking it. Maybe that’s why I haven’t even come close to getting one since I moved here 11 months ago.
Because every metric I have says that long-term planning is the true sign of responsible adulthood. Only, I can’t plan long-term. I can’t really even plan short-term. The pay, the work, very little is predictable in my life right now. And that’s playing merry hell with my anxieties.
But I realized something recently: This is exactly what I wanted.
Okay, not this exactly. But it is a natural byproduct of what I did want, why working for myself has also held an allure for me, and why, with all the safety and predictability it might bring, I shouldn’t take that day job if someone offered it to me.
A friend pointed out to me a couple months ago, when I was spilling my guts about a lot of these issues, that I kept pining, (not in so many words), for what I had back in Austin. But she knows, what I had back in Austin was killing me. Sure, I had a regular paycheck and vacation days and health insurance, but I hated it. And it wasn’t so much the work, which I didn’t mind, or the people, who I enjoyed for the most part, or the environment, which I loved. What I hated was the box that it put me in.
I’ve never had a job where I felt okay saying “no” to my boss. Not in any inappropriate way, but if my boss came to me with a task, I knew I was going to do it. It didn’t matter if I was in the middle of something else or if I was already swamped, I was going to do it, and it would probably become part of my regular work. I have dozens of examples of this.
I had perks, but I had no freedom. I couldn’t decide what work I was going to do or not do. I couldn’t really even decide the shape my day would take, because there was always the possibility that I could get saddled with new work. Ironically enough, it was the unpredictability that I really hated.
So, I could back to that. Get the perks and some predictability as far as pay and benefits. But lose the freedom.
In the end, the choice comes down to what kind of unpredictability I’m willing to accept. Do I want to live in the box and the fear it brings or outside the box and the fear it brings?
I’m learning, slowly, stubbornly, heels dug in, looking at times franticly for an exit, but I’m learning. It’s not easy, but it’s good. It’s so much better than the alternative. The box is safe, but it will never let us grow or change. If we want that we have to choose freedom.
I choose freedom.