The freelancer’s paycheck

I never came across so many people who didn’t know what freelancing meant until I leapt full-time into editing. Even the people who handle my student loans had no idea what I was talking about. After I explained that I’m an editorial consultant, a freelancer, and that most of my clients pay me through Paypal, there was a long uncomfortable silence.

“No, like I just said,” I tried to explain, “I don’t get many paychecks, and all I have is my bank statements, because they’re personal checks and they don’t have stubs. Most of my clients pay me through Paypal. I could send over my Paypal statements.”

“Um, uh, um . . . let me . . . put you on hold while I . . . get the . . . uh, figure this out.” When he came back he said, “So you’re . . . mostly self-employed?”

“No. I am completely, totally self-employed.”

He didn’t seem to get that.

Despite the stares of confusion I receive whenever I have to explain what I do, I am really enjoying my job.

The biggest hurdle to overcome if you’d like to be a freelancer, or a consultant working entirely for yourself, is the fear of where your next paycheck is coming from. The student-loan man seemed shocked when I told him I had no idea where my next check was coming from.

“Do you get paid weekly, bi-weekly?”

“No,” I said again. “I never know when I’m going to get paid.”

I wasn’t going to go into the logistics of how my clients pay me or when; I was already fairly annoyed by that point.

I grew up in terror of money, or rather, of not having any. My mother was always worried we wouldn’t be able to pay the bills, so this constant worry rubbed off on me. It has taken an incredible amount of will-power to train myself to not worry so much; I try to counter these frantic thoughts with the mantra, I will have more than enough, I will be successful. So far, it’s working. But over the last few days, my will-power has crumbled, and I opened up the carefully labeled jar I’d placed on the dark shelf of my mind: Fear.

A good friend of mine, author of the memoir The Journey of a Motherless Child, wisely said, “Don’t water your weeds.” I have to focus on the positive and keep my goals in mind.

Something always triggers the terror; this time it was an off-handed comment someone made.

“Don’t ever get married, as long as you don’t get married, the government can’t come after your spouse for your student loans.”

Aaaaannd, queue onslaught of carefully tucked away terrors.

I don’t think I could do this job as well if I spent the majority of the time worrying about money.

This week, I face up to that fear and let it go.

If you love that weekly paycheck from your employer, and you’re afraid to give up that security, it’s possible freelancing isn’t for you.

But, it is for me. Oh, is it ever.


4 Replies to “The freelancer’s paycheck”

  1. Thanks for this, Rosa. It makes me feel better to know that I’m not alone in this fear! I, too, grew up in a constant state of fear about money, which has continued to this day. Yet, I have also gone freelance because I love the work of editing. I work daily to live “one day at a time” and try to use positive self-talk to tell myself I am good at what I do, I will be successful, and I will be able to pay my bills. It’s hard work! I keep my eye out for in-house jobs, as the fear can get overwhelming — I’m still not sure if freelance is right for me! But I knew it was something I would regret not trying. So here I am. Good luck to you, and keep believing in yourself!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Kara. You’re definitely not alone! I think the first few months are going to be the hardest, and it’ll never be easy, but now that I’ve had a taste of not having to answer to a boss, and do my own thing, I don’t think I’ll ever want anything else. Good luck to you!

  2. Who would have thought however many years ago (I can almost say decades…) when we first became penpals that we would both end up totally self-employed freelancers? I understand allll of this more than anyone. I bet you that. Three cheers for us, because it’s not easy…but it certainly can be worth it!

    1. Traci, I didn’t realize that you were also completely self-employed! You rock. No wonder we’re friends. I guess we were meant to be penpals. The universe said, “Hey, both these girls are nutty enough to be freelancers, I think I shall make them penpals!” 😉

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