There is a huge focus on full-time freelance careers with conversations often centering on how quickly a writer (or designer or coder) can run away from work and stay at home being creative all day long. Understandable, but I don’t think it needs to be a universal message. Writing full-time is not for everyone, and it’s certainly not for me.
There is no doubt that you can get more writing done in a day if you’re focused on it for hours upon hours. You can build a business more effectively and work the necessary time to grow your business without interference – provided you don’t have family obligations, of course. But as great as I’m sure freelancing full-time is, there are some elements that make it not fulfilling for me, personally, and I suspect for many others out there.
I spent fifteen months at home with the opportunity to work full-time hours, and at the end of the fifteen months I was ready to go back to the classroom. I fully realize this is strange, even among most teachers who desperately wish they could get out of the classroom. It’s no secret I love being a teacher and I’m happy to teach full-time for less than I make writing part-time because it has other benefits. And frankly, I’d find full-time freelancing less than satisfying for me personally.
I Like Being Fully Engaged
This might be unique to me – it’s hard to say since I only live in my own head – but in the year I spent at home primarily writing for a living, I didn’t feel as sharp as I do normally when I’m fully engaged as a teacher. I truly felt as though I was only using a few areas of my brain to write and that others areas where sitting there collecting dust. Every job is different, but for me, writing used the creativity part of my brain and it tickled the organization and research parts, but the communication and altruistic parts were definitely under stimulated.
I Like Sharing With Others
The best ideas come from discussion and action in my universe, and to sit at home and chat over IM or send emails around doesn’t create the kind of energy I like to really light fires and brainstorm. Honestly? I was lonely and not very creative sitting at home most of the day. I did go out and had plenty of play dates as all moms of toddlers do, but I didn’t get to experience any great meetings of the mind and there weren’t many lively discussions between adults over anything outside of bills and baby food.
I Like Intangible Rewards
There are many, many writers who feel called to the job and who feel enlightened just settling down in front of the keyboard. I feel that way at times, but I have a true calling and I’m fortunate enough to recognize that and embrace it. Teachers don’t get paid shit for what we have to deal with – no secrets there, but working with the kids and inspiring them to find success where they haven’t realized they could even hope for acceptance is hugely satisfying. I stay very busy over the summer, but even two months out of the classroom makes me a bit antsy. I have never found that sort of satisfaction through writing.
That is obviously totally personal to me, the teacher, but I know I’ve seen other comments and posts with a similar theme – we have to defend the right to write part-time. It’s okay to like your full-time job. It’s okay to even like it better than the writing – that doesn’t mean you don’t like writing, too. You don’t have to live, breathe, eat and dream about a freelance writing career to be a “real” writer. It actually irritates me when the message –overt or subliminal – comes through posts and articles that being full-time is the holy grail of writing – to the exclusion of any other arrangement.
I teach full-time, but even if I didn’t teach full-time, I would still only write part-time. Why? Because, like so many other WAHMs out there, I would spend those extra hours with my children or in some other “helping” capacity. You’d find me up at the school volunteering and organizing the Cub Scout outings. I’m just a part-time writer any which way you cut it.
Part-time doesn’t mean you’re not serious about writing. I have every intention of writing part-time as long as I can – it’s part of my partial retirement plan twenty-odd years from now.
Part-time doesn’t mean you work for hand-outs. My hourly rate hasn’t fallen below $50 for years now and it’s usually closer to $100. I just only work 2 or so hours a day in the evenings instead of 4 to 6 hours of writing during the day.
Part-time isn’t less respectable than full-time. Never be ashamed of having a job or “working for the man” if that’s something you enjoy. There are plenty of benefits of working full-time elsewhere and enjoying writing part-time in the evenings and weekends. You can have two careers, you know. And as far as I’m concerned, raising children properly counts fully as a career in and of itself.
I can’t tell you how to live your life or how to handle your career. I can only tell you that part-time works for me and I’m certainly not hurting for clients or profits. If you’re craving the full-time lifestyle of a freelance writer, go for it and revel in it when you get there! But if you’re thinking part-time seems better for you and your lifestyle – hey – that’s perfectly okay, too.