I started 2017 with renewed dedication to my writing career, and threw myself back into freelance work with abandon. When I look back through my moleskine day planner the weeks are jam-packed with crossed out action items and notes, indicating that over these past 3.5 months I have indeed been very busy. I’ve been working my ass off, to say the least, making headway and signing new clients, landing loads of work and getting bylines in multiple print and online publications.
That’s great, but freelancing isn’t enough. I became a writer to be a storyteller, not an information regurgitating robot. So often that’s what I end up being when it comes to the content writing which makes up so much of my work these days. Being a content writer is a thankless job akin to running a hamster wheel. But being a journalist, being a storyteller, allows me to have an impact on my community, or even the world, and really make a difference. That’s why I became a writer in the first place. I never became a writer to write lists about inane subjects I don’t give a shit about.
I’ve been at this for five years, and even though I’ve done better than most it still isn’t well enough and the same problems keep popping up over and over again: the irregular pay schedule, the lack of benefits, the dodgy clients, the isolation. I’m constantly putting myself under profound pressure to perform, to do the work and find more work, and to chase down clients when they don’t pay me on time (this my single biggest pet peeve). It’s an incredibly stressful occupation where you live every day wondering when the next paycheque is going to come, and if you’re going to be able to cover rent without having to dip into savings yet again.
Try as I will, I just can’t seem to get ahead. The market for freelance writing is terrible. Clients that pay well, and on time, are like unicorns. That’s why this year it’s my primary goal to find permanent, full-time employment in my field. My ideal job would be as a reporter for the CBC or The Globe and Mail; august institutions that make a difference with storytelling. That’s precisely what I want to do. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do.
Which isn’t to say I’ll never freelance again. I’ll just do the stories that I really want to write, such as this one on ice storms which I’m writing for an award-winning Canadian magazine. If I can rely on a full-time job for my income, then I won’t have to endlessly search for the next gig, the next assignment, the next paycheque, never having any time and energy left at the end of the day to work on the things I really want to work on. I want to write a book, but I simply don’t have time to write one because I’m too busy running myself ragged with freelance work. This is my frustration, and the reason why after five years I haven’t really moved forward as a storyteller.
I’ve paid my dues, and it’s time to move on from freelancing. It won’t be easy to find a job, but it will be worth it. It’s the only way for me to move forward as a professional storyteller.