Once you go freelance

I had a photographer here at my apartment today (more on that next week!), and we got to talking about freelance life. He said what many others who have left cushy full-time work to hang out their own shingle have told me: they will never go back to working for someone else.

As a reporter with a full-time job in the “let’s do more with less” era, a time of mass layoffs and shrinking newsrooms, I was always hearing how lucky I was to have a steady gig with a salary and benefits. And of course, as someone who still marvels that her childhood dream of becoming a writer is actually a reality, I felt privileged to work for some of this country’s top media organizations (and their immensely talented writers, editors and art directors).

But, like so many others, I’ve also watched colleagues walk the pink slip gangplank. And it seems that journalism’s incredible shrinking act will just keep adding shows until one day news will be written by well-trained chimps or perhaps those Japanese robots that can bring you drinks and vacuum your floor and high-five a world leader. (Wow, that sounds like I’ve been giving this a lot of thought, but I swear that all just came to me.)

The point is, I’m grateful to never have been in a position where I truly feared for my job. But during a conversation with a friend and former colleague recently, I came to the conclusion that I’ve also never truly feared being laid off. I realized that I’d be okay if I was given the boot and I would just re-group and start pitching stories and making contacts and, if all else failed, badger former co-workers for work.

Just like the photographer asked me earlier today, a lot of people have wanted to know what made me choose to try my hand at freelance life. Truth be told, I had always wanted to give it a shot but had long convinced myself that I wasn’t cut out for the hustling and the uncertainty.

Well, I have chosen a career that seems full of uncertainty these days. So I figure, why not live in a bit of self-imposed uncertainty and see what kind of life I can hustle for myself? It can’t be any worse than the life that working for a mainstream news outlet could give me.

In fact, I think it could be a lot better.

After two-and-a-half weeks and five assignments, I’m off to a hot start. I know there will be ups and downs and dry spells and tough times and maybe sometimes I’ll be lucky enough to have to turn down work.

But at least as the president, CEO, CFO and other miscellaneous acronyms of my own business, I feel like I can take my career wherever I would like it to go. And, in doing that, create a life that I’m happier living.