The Downsides Of Being A Freelancer

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Originally published May 5th, 2018

Good evening, blog friends. Long time, no see! A combination of a cross-country house move, constant illness, and a generally busy April have prevented me from writing until now. But guess who’s back, back again – Shady’s back, to return to complaining on the Internet!

Okay, maybe I’m being a tad harsh on myself there. I don’t ALWAYS complain when I blog – maybe just 70% of the time. The thing is, my mental state at the moment is not too fab, and literally everything I say or do seems to have a negative or self-deprecating undertone. That’s what we’re here to talk about today, actually: what happens when a freelance writer – i.e. yours faithfully – begins to metaphorically drown under the pressures of work and life.

Now, while I absolutely love my job and wouldn’t trade it for the world, it does have some downsides that have been featuring in my life quite heavily lately. For one, if you take a “sick day” in this profession, you simply don’t get paid. No exceptions. You’re not on a permanent contract of any time, and there’s no backup in place to make sure you get “sick pay”. You basically have to choose between resting for the good of your health, or pushing through in order to earn enough money to pay your bills. It blooming well sucks.

This has been a particularly pressing issue for me lately as I’ve rather unfortunately found myself to be chronically ill. For once, I’m not talking about my old pals anxiety and depression – although they have come to join this particularly shit and painful party too, to be honest. Instead, my body has decided to fail me this time by developing chronic sinus issues. This might not sound all that painful – your sinuses are only that tiny bit of your nose, right?! – but trust me, it’s utter fucking HELL. Turns out your sinuses actually spread across most of your face. If they become blocked, you can say hello to sharp, shooting pain all over your face and head that pain killers just won’t treat. Antibiotics also aren’t usually an option, because 90% of sinus infections are viral. It’s a bit of a shit sandwich, to be honest.

I’ve been having sinus-related symptoms for at least a month and a half now, and it’s severely impacted my ability to work. I’m either in too much pain to do anything, or incredibly tired from fighting the infection. A couple of times now, I’ve had to push back article deadlines because I’ve simply been too ill to work. While this may sound like a reasonable thing to do, for my hyper-perfectionist brain it’s tantamount to high treason. How DARE I not meet the impossibly high standards I set myself? This makes me a TOTALLY TERRIBLE HUMAN AND A FAILURE IN EVERY WAY. That, right there, has been my mindset all day today, and I’m seriously weary.

You see, the loss of income isn’t even the worst part of being an ill freelancer for me. It’s the feeling that I’m letting everyone down. I’m not able to do even the simplest tasks, and it makes me feel like most useless human alive. The classic anxiety-spiral-of-doom then begins, and I convince myself that missing any more deadlines is going to lose me all of my writing gigs. Then come the “I’m never going to work again” and “I’m going to amount to nothing” thoughts. That’s the downside of actually getting to live your dream: you’re constantly worried that it’s going to come crumbling down, and then what? How do you go on with your life knowing you’ve failed at your lifelong ambition at the mere age of 23?

Hopefully, that won’t come to pass for me. I’m well aware that a lot of these fears are generated by my anxiety disorder, and don’t actually reflect reality. However, there’s still that nagging voice in the back of my mind telling me that I’m literally the worst person walking the Earth right now. Forget Assad, or Donald Trump, or Kim Jong Un: it’s me, Eleanor Louise Miles, sat here in my bedroom in Leicestershire.

So there you have it. In summary: I’ve been sick for a while. It means I can’t work as hard as usual. This has led to me kinda hating myself. Where do I go from here? I don’t really know. This time last week, I told myself that from then on, I’d be back on track with work and life. That did not happen. Do I try and set myself that goal again? Do I just accept that I need to increase my self-care time, and thus risk working and earning less? We shall see. All I know is, typing out this rant in the guise of a blog post has made me feel a little better. If you’ve made it this far, congratulations: it can’t have been a cheery read! However, I always told myself that I’d be honest on this blog about the state of my life and my career, so here we are. Life as a freelancer isn’t always pretty. I’ll be damned if I know how to make myself feel better. Still, I can at least live in hope that I’ll wake up tomorrow with clear sinuses and a little less self-hatred. Cross your fingers for me, please.

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