Freelance Writing: This is What it Feels Like to be Exhausted by What You Love

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Writer Hunter S. Thompson, while probably feeling similar to the way I feel about my laptop after writing and editing all day, prepares to shoot his typewriter to smithereens.
Writer Hunter S. Thompson, while probably feeling similar to the way I feel about my laptop after writing and editing all day, prepares to shoot his typewriter to smithereens.

A month or so ago, I got the idea in my head that I needed to become a freelancer. Like, now. Despite the fact that I am only a rising college sophomore, despite the fact I have little experience in my writing representing anyone other than myself, I decided to take the plunge.

Surprisingly, it’s been working out great.

I feel this immense gratification in knowing that there are people out there willing to not only pay for my work, but swear to heavens that its worth more than the $5 they paid me for it.

That’s right. Just $5.

Because I have virtually no experience, I searched for ways to gain experience while online. That’s when I happened upon a freelancer blog talking about Fiverr. I decided to sign up for the site. Things started slow for the first few day and then suddenly, they rocketed off. It’s barely been a month since I’ve signed up for the site an I’m already rated as a Level One seller because of the orders I’ve fulfilled and the views my Gigs get.

I’m earning money doing what I love. However, it still manages to be demoralizing. I’m giving my 100% to people who are just paying my $5 in the hopes that eventually that $5 will turn into $15 an hour somewhere, somehow.I have high hopes for myself and in the process of making sure my “hopes” turn into a “reality,” I am exhausting myself.

I wake up and write, edit, write some more, edit again, copy edit, write even more, and maybe ever top all of this off with some web coding because, really, I am a renaissance woman and I’ve dared myself to do it all. Whatever I can do, I am doing. Even things I thought I couldn’t pull off, I am pulling them off. I’ve crossed that line to where bullshitting has turned into “Hey, you actually good at this!”  I often think that I won’t make this deadline nor that one, but by jove, I ‘m doing it and I’m doing it well. 

Well, at least that’s what people tell me.

Anyway, despite all this success and the immense gratification I feel in completing and reading over  my work, I’m in desperate need of being able to write for myself without the thought of work hovering over me. I need the time to read for myself without the thought of 5 approaching deadlines.

I wonder how full-time freelance writers live with themselves. You can’t create your own schedule, despite what hundreds of blogs say. You are at the will and mercy of those that order your services. You will always be on someone else’s deadline, that is if you feel a sense of urgency with every job that you receive like I do. Taking a break threatens your income. There are no retirement funds. There is no paid leave. You have no provided safety net unless you earn enough to create one yourself.

If I do decide to become a professional freelance writer (I guess I kinda already am?), my life will also consist of a normal 9-5 that will most likely be A) working at Wal-Mart or B) working as an IT specialist (aiming for choice B, of course). I hear having a steady, traditional job in addition to freelance work is the fate of most freelancers. Whoever earns a living off just writing is incredibly lucky and has internal patience that only years of meditation could give me. If I were them, I’d want a break. My hands would start to hurt. My mind would start to dull. My standards would slowly but surely diminish. I would need to breathe.

But you know what a journalist told a crowd me along with a crowd of other aspiring writers at a journalism conference? That when you write about life for a living, when you write for people and not yourself, there’s no such thing as breath that lasts longer than a few hours.

Could I survive like that? Right now, I’m saying no, but maybe I’ll be saying yes in the future.

There’s still much to learn. In the meantime, I have to get back to writing and editing six articles I have due by tomorrow…