Balancin’ Freelancin’

Like several of my readers, my professional life is in some ways more complicated than that of someone who works a single full-time position in an office or classroom. Never am I reminded of this more than at this time of year, when each day my little pile of W2’s and 1099’s grows. This past year I was a resident teaching artist for an inner city preschool, taught my first semester of college theatre, directed a middle school play, acted as a direct support provider and educational consultant for a child with special needs, substitute taught a lot, stage managed two touring productions, designed lights for five dance concerts, and provided an array of technical support for productions at two private schools. I had my good gigs and my less-good gigs, my lean times and times where I could give my  landlord rent two or three months in advance. I navigated a health care maze, first paying a great deal of money for coverage through COBRA, and then going through a needlessly difficult application process trying to secure health insurance that was less expensive than my rent.

There’s a lot of balancing to freelancing. In this economy I find it even harder to say no to work, as I wonder if at any minute any one of the gigs I have could fall through. I started 2009 with a strong sense of I-Need-Work/Life-Balance, and I do think some progress was made. I like to think I work a little smarter than I did in my early twenties– I have a better sense now of what my work is worth and (a little) less inhibition about letting clients know what that is. And I can say with certainty that I was happier professionally in 2009 than I had been in 2008– the year I made a difficult decision to leave a full time position I had held for sometime. I had wondered if I would be okay jumping back into the world of the self-employed and I definitely am glad I did. But evaluating which jobs to take on and which gigs would be best walked away from is a challenge that really never goes away. Sometimes i’m just grateful for the work but too busy to have a satisfying personal life. Sometimes the work pays the bills but gets in the way of more fulfilling professional development. Sometimes it’s all going so well I can hardly believe it– but I feel anxious that something will slip and the juggling will catch up with me. Sometimes I’m just trying to make ends meet and I wonder if I’d be better off in a full time position with a group health insurance plan and a predictable day or two off each week.

Question  for the World: How have Work/Life Balance challenges and financial considerations influenced your choices in how you have structured your professional life? What advice would you give to others in the field?

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