Ask the cubicle expat: Isn’t it easier to be a freelancer when you’re single and/or baby-free?

October 21st, 2008

Here’s another excerpt I wanted to share from my interview with the fabulous Mir on Work It, Mom! last week…

Mir/WIM! asks: You’re a huge proponent of life-balance as a matter of not just sanity, but better professional production. You’re a young, single woman with an immediate family consisting of one dog. Do people criticize any of your advice based upon your not having a spouse and/or kids and therefore the experience with those added demands? Do you think you’re qualified to speak to those sorts of issues without having gone through them, yourself?

I answer: No, no one has criticized, maybe because I’m 41 and have been working for myself for 16 years. But thank you for calling me young. That makes my day! I’m also not without responsibility. I have a mortgage on a house I bought and own by myself. I have a committed relationship with a guy I’ve been with for more than four years (we don’t live together or share expenses, but we’re talking about it). Negotiating my work schedule with him does come into play a lot, since I’m the one who’s often working longer hours, between my book stuff and my regular freelance workload, and he has a 9-to-5 job with four weeks of vacation time and incredibly predictable work hours. I also have a mom who lives a couple hours away and has some health concerns I’m increasingly becoming involved with. So I am not as footloose and fancy-free as I was when I was a young pup of 27 and could afford to just work 25 hours a week and make $25K a year.

For those reasons, I definitely think I’m qualified to speak for those with bigger financial and family responsibilities. But just to make sure I’m not talking out of my ass, I interviewed a number of freelancing moms and other caregivers for both my books. I kind of take issue (respectfully) with those who would say it’s easier for a single person to freelance than someone who’s married or shacked up and has a second income in their household as a cushion. I pay my own health insurance (which costs a fortune, even on my cheapskate plan). And if I have a particularly un-lucrative month because I decided to spend valuable working hours promoting one of my books, I have to work twice as hard (and often twice as long) the next month to make up for it financially. There’s no cavalry to call to chip in on my bills.

It’s of course much harder to juggle freelance deadlines with a baby on your boob or kids under your roof. But I do think that many things are easier on two incomes (my mortgage costs me at least twice what all my married friends pay per person). And while I went out of my way while working on my books to only interview freelancers who are the main, the sole, or an equal breadwinner in their household (many of them married with kids), I also know a lot of married freelancers, some with kids, some without, who just earn grocery money from their freelance work, if that. Some of them have even said to me, “I could never do what you do. Without my husband’s income, I couldn’t afford to live.” That’s all well and good, but I’m here to tell you that just like their single counterparts, plenty of freelance live-in girlfriends, wives, moms, and other caregivers make a handsome living working for themselves.

Want more of my Q&A with Mir? Here’s part 1, and here’s part 2.

Entry Filed under: Ask the Cubicle Expat,This freelance life

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Susan  |  October 21st, 2008 at 10:11 am

    As a fellow freelancer who is also single, I applaud you for speaking up, Michelle! We may not have children to support, but we also don’t have the security of a significant other’s salary or health benefits. There’s never the “perfect” time or situation to jump into full time freelancers, but if you’re determined and hard-working then you make it work.

  • 2. Michelle Goodman  |  October 21st, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Thanks, Susan. Indeedy. I very soapbox-y about this one. ;) I hear too many people say you have to be married and “kept” to freelance and that’s just not true.

  • 3. Avid Writer  |  October 22nd, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    This post was completely on point. I completely agree with you and I’ a mother with a husband and four kids. Right now I am the sole source of income. Most would say it’s tougher because of all my resonsibilities, but I beg to differ. They keep me focused on my business, paying the mortgage,car payment,etc. Susan is right – there is no perfect time to start freelancing. I wish I’d had the guts to freelance waaaay sooner back before I was married and had kids.

  • 4. Michelle Goodman  |  October 22nd, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    Hey AW, it’s great to hear your perspective. Thanks for writing! I agree that there’s no perfect time to start. It’s like waiting for the perfect time to have kids, right? :)

  • 5. When to Work for Free - S&hellip  |  November 9th, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    [...] for free, you reinforce people’s misguided ideas that the self-employed are independently wealthy hobbyists. Don’t degrade your profession by letting a cheap client take advantage of [...]

  • 6. The Freelance Photographe&hellip  |  December 3rd, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    [...] to work free, you reinforce people’s misguided ideas that the self-employed are independently wealthy hobbyists. Don’t degrade your profession by letting a cheap client take advantage of [...]

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Who I am

Hi, my name's Michelle Goodman and I've been freelancing since 1992. I'm author of My So-Called Freelance Life and The Anti 9-to-5 Guide. Read my full bio here.

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