I’m a freelancer. I work in Costume Design, primarily for live theatre. It is work that I absolutely love. I am passionate about it. I believe firmly that it is important, invaluable work.
Here’s the thing. Sometimes it sucks.
I mean that.
It is scary. It is hard. It means sleepless, worried nights. It means giving up on some things. It means remaining confident in the face of unimaginable fear.
And that’s the worst thing about freelance work.
When you have enough work, freelancing is the dream, right? I mean. I get to do work that I love, on my own schedule, and get paid for it. There are many days when I wake up and I cannot wait to get to work. When I’m doing this work, I simply can’t connect to my friends who say “ugh, I don’t want to work today”. I’ve had jobs like that. But my costume design work never, ever feels like that.
Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I’m frustrated or disappointed by what has happened. But I alway see the good side of it. Always. I always want to keep up with it. I can talk about it for hours.
I’ll take my worst days of freelance work over most of my days doing other work. It makes me feel alive.
But when work gets slow, it’s the scariest thing in the world. When the contracts run out unexpectedly, and you realize all of a sudden with a start that there isn’t a paycheck coming. And not ever again unless you get off your couch and go for it.
And sometimes, you do just that, and you don’t get the gig. And there still isn’t a paycheck coming.
Meanwhile, how are you paying your bills? How are you buying dog food? How do you generate work and content that are interesting and provide value when you’re so scared of losing your shirt it’s all you can think about it?
That, my supers, is the worst part of freelancing. It’s hard. But not in the way you think. Not the work itself- the old saying “do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”? It holds true. The work is hard, but when you love it, you don’t care. You do it anyway.
But when the work dries up… That’s hard. Learning to budget for those times is hard. Giving up vacations is hard. Admitting that you can’t go out with a friend because you’re broke is hard. If you’re an extrovert (like I am), staying mentally healthy when you can’t afford to go out and have adventures is hard.
And I don’t know how to get through it.
That is why I’ve gone so silent on you. It’s so, so, so hard to write about being a superhero when you feel like a guttersnipe. I don’t feel Super. I’m scared. I’m anxious. I’m just barely managing to keep my head above water, and honestly, some days I don’t. There are too many days when I am content to sit on my couch playing games on my phone and listening to audiobooks for hours on end.
And what kind of hypocrite would I be, if I can’t even be my own Superhero? How is that Superhero Living? How can I help you if I can’t help myself?
I don’t have the answers. A lot of times, I do feel like I can shed some light on these kinds of subjects, but I really and truly can’t today.
But here’s the thing I’m holding on to. My raft in a sea of fear and confusion. It’s pretty simple: This too shall pass. It will. If I’m being honest, the end is already in sight. It feels like it will last forever, but it won’t.
And today, that’s how I’m living like a superhero. How are you?