This January marked the anniversary of my beginning a career in freelance editing. When I first started, it was part time as a way of earning some money from home in the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic while I was finishing my Master’s degree. Around June of last year, I transitioned to full-time editing work, and I have learned a great deal about the industry and about freelancing in that time. Initially, working from home on my own schedule seemed an ideal existence. In many ways, I still believe that it is, but in the last year I have experienced both the ups and downs of a freelance career, and my perspective has become significantly more realistic.
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of freelancing is the uncertainty it necessarily involves. Finding work as a freelance editor has become much easier than it was when I first started out, but there are still times when I don’t know where my next project will come from. These weeks can be stressful, especially if recent earnings have not provided enough of a buffer to weather some down time. This can be a major drawback, but it isn’t one that has caused any financial ruin for me or my family. Every time we seem to be approaching danger, something has come through, and I’ve rarely felt at a loss for work for more than a day or two. I would imagine that very well-established freelancers don’t struggle with this much, if at all, but it is certainly a real risk for the newcomer.
This is the most serious drawback of freelancing, but there are others. Working from home, for instance, is often a challenge. My daughter is not yet a year old, and so there’s no way to communicate to her the concept of boundaries—she regularly bangs on my door or cries when I come out to get something and then have to go back to work. This often makes the walk back to my office very difficult, and it is always tempting to spend time with her rather than being productive. All of this makes a dedicated office space a necessity, and this means that one of the rooms in our house that would otherwise be put to other uses has to remain a work space. Moreover, the blessings of making one’s own schedule can never erase the fact that one must still complete a certain amount of work every day to make a living. Therefore, even though I can choose which hours in a given day I work, I must still put in those hours. For me, that means starting almost as soon as I wake up and focusing until my daily work is done. If I were to spend too much time “being flexible,” then I wouldn’t be making a full-time income.
I did not give any of these factors serious consideration when I first began pursuing freelance editing, and I may have been more hesitant to begin had I been more aware of them. Nevertheless, I don’t in any way regret my decision, as the benefits still far outweigh the drawbacks. I am making a living reading all day, after all, and so any complaints ultimately seem ridiculous! Moreover, those difficulties that arise from working at home cannot erase the real pleasure that such a situation brings. I may struggle to pull myself away from my family to go back to work, but I get to see them everyday for breakfast and lunch, and my workday is considerably shorter than many people that I know. For me, this makes the uncertainty and stress worth it.