This Freelancing Life
January 15, 2007

My life is not my own. As a freelancer every day, every hour, and nearly every thought is slotted to one of my clients. It's a hellacious fallacy that freelancing is all about choosing your own hours and owning your time. The first part is definitely true; not being held in thrall by regular office hours, I can work well into the night and, since I'm a night owl, I usually do. However, the whole owning your life thing is certainly not true. At least, not for me.

I just never stop working. If I'm not writing something up, I'm researching it, promoting it, or thinking up and pitching new ideas. I say yes to everything because I'm afraid to say no and lose potential clients. I take on projects without knowing how long some of them will take. I double, triple, QUADRUPLE book my time and if I'm not working on six things at once with my hair on fire, I don't think I'm working hard enough.

The only time I can really get away is when I yank my ass away from my computer and hurl myself into the great outdoors for a run or a hike. Come to think of it, even then I'm working. My iPod is loaded with KCRW's "Good Food," NPR's food clips, and MPR's "Splendid Table" and that's what I'm tuned into even as I take long lungfuls of bright sea air. Some of my best ideas come when listening to those shows and the sweat has barely dried on my skin before I'm in front of my laptop post-run writing up notes and phrases that ran through my head as I ran through the sand.

Most people take their birthday off, but since my clients never know my birthday it's sort of hard. They don't care -- they have a deadline and it's my job to hew to it. This year, I forced myself to take my birthday off. Taking the day off meant I went for a long hike while listening to the Grey's Anatomy podcast (I'm all out of Tim Gunn's until the new season, sob!), after which I took a long shower and tied myself into a comfy pile of flannel blankets and purring cats to read something completely unrelated to food. I refused to work on my birthday.

That's the thing about freelancing -- you have to own it before it owns you and swallows your entire life. There are times I long for the regular ball and chain of a nine to five job, a desk that doesn't have a cat on it, and the structure that forces you out of bed every morning, into a shower, into makeup, and into binding office attire to catch a bus that is late and makes you fret all the way to work about being late where you spend the day chained to a desk that doesn't even have a soft cat on it.

Yeah, you have to own it.

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