The Freelance Life, if I can compress such a diverse practice into a two word phrase, is the only work life I have ever had.
I went to Art School from sixth form, and when I left, I was unemployed for a while, semi-self-employed for a while longer (while trying fairly cluelessly to 'make it' in a band. You know, the usual stuff) and then, finally, self employed, that being the state in which I have remained ever since.
I am actually quite proud that I have 'never had a proper job'. I feel like at some basic level I have achieved a not insignificant victory. I get to think of funny ideas and draw funny animals and get paid for it ;-) I feel that in the general scheme of things that is not supposed to happen.
To those gainfully employed in offices and workplaces, it seems a strange and perplexing way to exist. Where does motivation and discipline come from if you are sitting around at home all day? How do you manage money if you don't know how much you are getting each month? These are good questions but not really ones I can usefully answer as the freelance existence is all I've ever known.
"I get by. . " is about the best I can manage.
This perplexity goes both ways. For my part, I have difficulty understanding how people function in a world of hierarchies, office politics and regular work hours.
Aside from the obvious stuff, one aspect of the freelance existence that isn't mentioned often, as it pertains to the creative side of it anyway, is something I call 'Freelance Limbo'. A kind of suspended animation we go through while waiting for a response from the entity commissioning the creative work, or potentially commissioning such work.
I often refer to the process of undertaking a dialogue with a publisher as being like making a phone call to Mars, the conversation is hugely disjointed as if due to a massive time delay. (But unlike with Mars, it's only a one way time delay. . . )
You can be working intensely and enthusiastically on something, and can't wait to get approval to go on to the next stage. The creative juices are in full flow, you're buzzing etc. Then you send it in for feedback and just have to kind of hang there. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . all excitement suppressed. . . . . . . . while the wheels of the machine turn and somebody finds the time to assess your work and reply.
This is not a complaint aimed at publishers, but rather an attempt to reveal an undocumented part of the freelance existence, and to point up one of the issues that arise when one party ( the publisher ) is busy on several projects and has to deal with umpteen authors and illustrators who all want attention, while the other party is totally focussed on one thing, and wants to keep the flow going. It's an inevitable part of the process of getting a book published, especially these days of tighter margins etc.
It's something you never entirely get used to, but you learn to manage, turn the flow on and off, but it is wearing over time. It's frustrating. Your ability to influence events has been taken away and you have to try to put it out of your mind until the aforementioned ability is restored.
Do all freelancers have this frustration or is it just my issue?