Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Freelance Worry Cycle

After decades as a freelancer you'd think I'd get used to the down periods, when work is scarce, clients and editors go missing, and I feel as if I'll never see another paycheck (or opportunity). You'd think I'd just chalk it up to business as usual and not worry so much. You would be wrong. 

I worry.  I kvetch. I agonize. I alternately obsess over the fallow state of affairs or busy myself for hours each day making lists of possible new sources of business, generating queries, submitting like crazy, contacting likely sources of business, asking too many people if they know anyone who needs a writer, editor…heck, sometimes even a gofer. 

I forget that at times, I've designed things just this way -- purposely creating a lull between teaching assignments, so that I can make substantial progress on a manuscript; declining certain writing assignments for reasons that make sense (at the time, anyway); allowing an eager but difficult editing client to drift away because the fit was not right, for either of us.

Even so, I worry, whine, and I wonder….what if I were to chuck this freelance status?

I don't.

Because then, the upswing begins. Slowly at first, and then it seems all at once. Contacts email me back, some with tantalizing prospects. Editors suddenly seem to remember who I am and what I can do, and get in touch, some with assignments. Writers in need of editing or writing coaching call and tell me about their interesting projects and how I can help. Organizations looking for a seminar leader or instructor want to talk.

You'd think, after so many years, I'd realize that the flurry of activity that accompanies the upswing also just means business as usual and that I wouldn't get overly excited. Wrong again. 

I do – get excited, that is.

When work picks up, I think I've won some sort of (okay, small scale) freelance lottery. I can't believe how lucky and fortunate I am. I even sometimes wonder if these folks have the right person.  Do they really want me to do that? Well, okay then.

Very quickly then, I get over it. I get busy. Get to work. Get going. And for a while, I forget that, inevitably, another slow period will come along. And I'll worry, naturally.

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