When Freelancing Isn’t Free

cage.jpg“No… No, look, I’d really like to avoid a trip to the city…” My diplomatic pleas were falling on deaf ears. The corporate client of a web development client wanted a meeting, and that was that.

I understand. They are a group of people in suits who want me to be their psychotherawriter (not to be confused with psychowriter). They want to feel important by impressing me with their money, their boardrooms, their leather chairs…

Well, okay. Leather chairs impress me. So do swanky “working” lunches. But a three-hour round trip on Canadian winter roads crammed into a week where I’m already too busy doesn’t impress me in the least.

Yet corporate Canada calls and I must listen.

“I have a bad feeling about this one,” I sighed to my client. I can say things like that to him. He understands. “I really don’t have to do this, you know. This is why I became a freelancer. To be free.”

For the rest of the day, that phrase haunted me.

The fairytale dreams of freelancing are wonderful ones. We shall work in our underwear and never comb our hair. We shall eat Brie when we feel like it and drink wine at 3 pm. We’ll save money on commuting and become financially self-sufficient.

Then we take a leap of faith, buoyed by the breezes of dreams and for a moment in time, life is fantastic. We do eat Brie and drink wine. Once, maybe twice. After that, the thrill wears off. It’s back to chips and contemplating getting drunk.

Underwear does become a staple of the closet, but in three weeks or so, we dig out better clothing because really, working in your underwear is silly. We comb our hair, save on commuting and worry about our self-sufficiency when our financial means experience fantastic roller coaster rides the likes you’ve never seen.

Then things settle. Freelancers stabilize their lives (somewhat; most still drink and worry about money). They take on bigger and bigger gigs. Things are looking up. Brie is a possibility again and the underwear might include designer labels. Clients are more important than before. Rates rise. So do bank accounts.

So does the pressure to perform. So does the song and dance of red tape or meetings that go nowhere. So does working on jobs that we don’t really enjoy, that pay well or that seem important but that are so far from our vision of why we began freelancing that they almost hurt.

In recent weeks, I’ve been too busy to remember what freedom means to me or why I began this crazy ride. I want the freedom to choose and to agree on my own terms, not someone else’s. I want the freedom to say no, even if it costs me. I want the freedom to write what I enjoy and pass on what I don’t.

So the next time I’m facing a swanky job that I feel I shouldn’t refuse… I’m going to say no and remember that my freelancing starts with the word free.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.