I’m a teacher. I chose to be a teacher, and I continue to teach because I enjoy the challenge and the rewards of the profession. But there are always downsides, and in this season of assessment testing and stress, I was thinking today about my other job.
I’m a freelance writer. I chose to start writing and to continue this career in addition to the full-time teaching one about eight years ago. It makes for full days, and there are times when I’m ready to throw in the towel, escape to a beach somewhere and lay still. Okay, we call that napping, but still. It’s a dream.
I stop myself when I’m feeling pitiful and remember that I choose to do all that I do, and when I compare the two jobs side by side, there are huge benefits to both, especially when I’m willing to look objectively.
I teach public high school in Texas. I’ll never be rich in this career field. In fact, I work about ten to twenty hours per week writing and I've surpassed my own teaching salary more than a few years running. Fortunately, I don’t teach to get rich, so it’s not a huge deal, but it does give me a nice rush to think that I’m not bound to that income. I can make as much as I want simply by adjusting my rates and taking on new projects.
Unlimited income potential is something that will never come from teaching, and can’t be said for the majority of office jobs these days either. I might make less one week, but I’ll make up for it another week, and that always keeps me motivated when the going gets tough.
Some jobs have zero flexibility. They might pay well, but you’re stuck doing things a particular way day in and day out. Teaching has a bit more flexibility than some careers since I can do things the way I want in my classroom, but there are rules to follow – both written and unwritten. There are expectations to meet and that requires addressing performance measures and goals often set by other people – even the government at times.
Meanwhile, when I sit down to write I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do. I might take on a project that’s not especially fun or deal with a client who frustrates me from time to time, but I do those things by choice. If I don’t like it, I don’t have to do it again. If I need to run errands on a day I’m home writing, I can.
Meanwhile back at campus, I get four minutes every forty-five minutes to consider the bathroom. I get twenty-five minutes to eat and no time to myself until the last forty-five minutes of the day. It’s part of the job and I recognize that and don’t usually worry about it too much, but there are days when I wish I worked at home full-time just so I could go for a walk after lunch or run to the store before 5pm on a Wednesday. Freelancing definitely gives you that opportunity.
Most of you would shudder at my teaching contract. There is a clause at the end of the contract that states I must perform any other campus or district duties as the need arises. It’s basically saying I am expected to do anything at any time. Usually the principal doesn't enforce the clause, but it happens from time to time. It’s aggravating every time.
But it does make me appreciate the world of freelancing. I’m the boss of me and my own career. There’s nobody to make me do something I would rather not do. (With the notable exception of the IRS). I don’t have to explain myself or defend my practices. I’m a lone wolf, writing across the range. Or at least pretending to be to amuse myself.
No career choice is perfect, and there are seasons in both of mine that can be up or down. Ask me about freelancing in a bit of a dry spell and you’ll hear some complaints. Ask me about teaching as my seniors walk across the stage to graduate – those same kids who nobody thought would ever make it – and I’ll tell you it’s the best career in the world. But the best thing about both is just how balanced they make my life – I can appreciate one because I have the other.
I encourage everyone to reflect from time to time on just what it is that makes freelancing work so well for you. It’s easy to get bogged down in details and stress, but overall this is a great job. What makes it so great for you?