The Pros & Cons of a Creative Lifestyle

I’m feeling a little introspective today.

Maybe it’s the weather (cool and rainy? In May? In the Mid-Atlantic? I am not a fan!) Maybe it’s getting ready to move (looking for a new apartment = exhausting.) Or maybe it’s the lack of changes right now (I thought we’d be leaving Philadelphia this summer, turns out it will be next summer.)

It also might have something to do with the friend who asked me last week, “You’re self-employed? But that’s so risky, isn’t it?”

Whatever the cause, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this new life that I’m living, balancing freelance work and a creative lifestyle.

What makes me do it? What makes it worthwhile?

Pros & Cons of My Creative Lifestyle

Pro: What I can do is unlimited

One reason I went full-time freelance was that my day jobs interfered with my ability to pursue my acting work. I had to turn down a fantastic opportunity, and thinking about it still stings. Now, there’s no reason I can’t pursue multiple types of work.

Con: Availability doesn’t always mean the outcome

Of course, being available to pursue multiple types of work doesn’t always mean it goes the way you want. I worked through audition season for local theatres, and I still don’t have any projects lined up. I had clients scale back in April, and that was rough. And I don’t have the comfort of blaming a boss for things not working out — every outcome rests squarely on my shoulders.

Pro: There’s always another path to take

I can quickly jump on another when one path doesn’t work out. If I don’t have any theatre work lined up for this fall… well, it’s time to look at some more films, commercials, and tv! When I was working for others, there was always a set way to do things. Now, I can branch out and decide for myself what comes next.

Con: Creative work can be exhausting

When do you work for yourself? Who will always do more work? I can spend all day writing, but I still have more marketing tasks on my to-do list. I can spend all day running between auditions, then come home and have four more hours of client work waiting for me. Because there’s always more to do, it can be hard to shut off at the end of the day or allow me to take time off.

Pro: Scheduling flexibility

I got an email from a friend today about planning a beach trip next month. Several people had to check what their office’s time off policy was. My husband had to contact colleagues about covering his classes for a few days. Me? I just said yes! I know I can work from anywhere, so I’ll bring my laptop and spend a few hours each day at work and the rest of the time on the beach. As long as I have an internet connection, I can go anywhere. That’s an incredible feeling.

Con: Income instability

As I confessed a little while ago, my income took a hit in April. It’s climbing back up, and I think it will soon be higher than before the downturn. But income instability is a fact of freelancing life. We try to account for it with savings and multiple revenue streams, but there’s always a chance your clients will say, “See ya!” and leave you wondering where your next few paychecks will come from.

Pro: I can’t be “unemployed.”

When that friend I mentioned asked me about the risk of being self-employed, I had to stop laughing. Because the fact is that any job is risky, you can work anywhere and still wake up unemployed tomorrow. As a freelancer, though, I’m constantly marketing and constantly working. Even if I lose a client, I still have more work: more clients to reach out to, more blogs to pitch, and more auditions to attend. I’m never unemployed because I work for myself.

Pro: My life now reflects my priorities

When I turned down that role last fall, I realized something was out of alignment. My schedule, the things I was committed to and made time for, did not reflect what mattered to me. Visiting family was brutal. Time with my husband and friends wasn’t happening. And I had to let excellent opportunities pass me by. Now that I set my schedule and work for myself, I can prioritize the way I want to, not the way someone else’s business requires.

Pro: Ability to work on my projects

If you don’t have time for personal projects, you aren’t freelancing. You’ve just traded one boss (your former employer) for several (your clients). Now, I have time to pursue all sorts of things I’m excited about: writing a novel, working on some short stories, studying swing dancing, planning a new authority website… Without my self-directed, creative lifestyle, I wouldn’t have time for all that.

Pro: My life has a sense of adventure and possibility

I no longer feel awful when I wake up on Monday mornings. I no longer wake up in the morning, unable to remember the day because my weeks are hectic. I no longer look at my calendar and want to cry because I’m running between so many obligations that I don’t care about. I wake up energized (except on rainy days like today, when I want to stay in bed and read, but that’s never going away.) I feel free. I feel like hundreds of exciting things, fun places, and creative projects are waiting for me to discover them.

That feeling is worth any number of cons you can throw at me.

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