I’ve never had a “real” job in my life. Which is to say, I’ve never had a job that provided a salary, benefits, or paid vacation or sick time. (Okay, once for six months, while I was living and teaching in China I had all those things. But never here in America.) Since college, I’ve been a waitress, a bartender, a literacy consultant, a tutor, an undergraduate writing instructor, the director of a tutoring company, an online adjunct instructor, and a freelance editor. Many of these jobs overlapped; the most jobs I’ve ever held at the same time was three. But I’ve never had a “real” job.
Our culture is set up to favor salaried work. I understand that, even as it confuses me. Freelancers like myself are adaptable, resourceful, good for the economy. But our culture makes it fairly hard for them. Plus, they have to deal with their friends saying things like, “It must be nice not to have to go to work everyday.” In case you haven’t guessed, it makes me crazy.
I’m always up for a good defense of freelancers, and yesterday I got to write one for Salon.com, critiquing a recent New York Times Magazine article that denigrated freelance workers specifically living in Portland (whose jobs are apparently less real than freelancers’ in other parts of the country).
From my essay:
In New York freelancers are hustlers, applauded for surviving. If the financiers are New York City’s wallet, then the freelancers — the artists and writers and designers and musicians — are the city’s heart and soul. Perhaps Portland suffers from an excess of heart and soul, then, or perhaps we can only appreciate the grit and determination of freelancers when it is nearly impossible for them to get by. In Portland, it isn’t nearly impossible, and so the work we do is merely a nice way to pass our time until we decide to grow up and get real jobs (in different cities). Freelancers here are hobbyists, slackers. Semi-retired.
Check out the link to read the full article.