Freelancing has its perks. There’s flexibility of schedule, a comfortable working environment from home, and no employee handbook to memorize.
My membership in free agent nation is coming up on three years. During that time, I’ve managed to cobble together a myriad of paying gigs—unique reports, video production, facilitation, teaching writing, and managing grants. I’m also learning to be more patient, during the dry and uncertain patches.
Last year, a unilateral decision was reached that the JBE needed to update his writing portfolio. So 18 months after setting that goal, I’ve managed to write for a number of newspapers, including the Boston Globe, did a couple of critical pieces about Portland (one of the few not sugarcoating life in the “golden” city that sits on Casco Bay), plus putting together a series of monthly travel features for the Lewiston Sun-Journal. I had hoped to do a bit more muckraking, but there aren’t many venues that pay local writers to dredge up stories about Maine’s kakistocracy.
Through it all, I’ve managed to fend off having to knuckle under, collecting mere scraps from Whitey TM’s table.
About six weeks ago, I lost a primary monthly source of writing income. Not a problem, I thought. I’ll find another one. When one door closes, etc. I’ve always managed to pick up work in the past.
Then, the phone stopped ringing and the emails weren’t being returned. My skills hadn’t changed. In fact, my skills are sharper and more refined than ever.
I rarely doubt myself. However, I struggled through a crisis of confidence for a few days.
Family stepped up and provided some needed tasks and opportunities to fill-in my down time. Thankfully I had my umpiring every afternoon taking me out into the sunshine and supplying some needed part-time income.
I’m now back surveying Maine’s limited employment market. There are plenty of jobs caring for people and flagging that pay $8.50 to $9.00 an hour. That means things are about like they’ve always been. Employers have the upper hand and you are often left wondering if you’ll get a call, or even an interview.
Yesterday, I headed out to a local employer. After a phone call, they asked me to come in and fill-out an actual paper application. I felt like it was 1997 again.
Sitting in their office, hearing the banter among their employees, color me unimpressed. From what I witnessed and heard, they would be getting a bargain snatching up someone with my skills, experience, and proven track record. Probably they’d expect me to accept $10 an hour, too. We’ll see what happens with this particular employer. I got some penmanship practice, at least.
Oh! I also got to put on my old uniform for the first time in awhile. A nice pair of dress slacks, an Oxford shirt, and my blue sport coat. It was warmer than I thought it would be and I was sweating with my long-sleeve dress shirt.
Over the past week, or so, some old friends have been back in touch, telling me that I’m doing the right thing, reaching out to my old network. This validation has been helpful.
If I had my druthers, I’d continue working from home most days, and have one or two outside projects that drag me out to interact with a wider circle of people, countering the isolation of that comes with writing and some of my other freelance activities.
Time will tell what’s around the corner for the JBE.