October 21st, 2008
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.