Today, I joined the Freelancer’s Union. It’s an organization that helps freelancers – writers, actors, etc – to pool their voices for change in certain policies like the cost of health insurance. In fact, that’s why I signed up – members get discounted health insurance. I got a pretty good deal for some basic coverage.
For the last year, I have been living without insurance. I’m in good health, and I’m blessed to not have many hereditary dangers, at least not ones that strike this early in my life. But without insurance or a fairly high income, I can’t even afford to go to the doctor for routine check-ups. I know some of you are familiar with this irony – in order to be able to afford the doctor without insurance, you have to make a great deal of money, but in order to be able to afford the insurance to afford the doctor, you still have to make a fair amount of money. It’s a terrible catch-22 that seems to keep a lot of people in jobs they don’t really enjoy simply because they need to be responsible about health care. (I could launch a health care debate here, but that’s not my point – although pipe in if you’d like).
This is just one of the challenges a freelancer has. Others include the need to build a business while still making enough money to survive while business grows. Right now, I work four part-time jobs to pay the bills, and I squeeze in my writing and editing business on the side. My creative stuff? Well, that gets an hour in the morning and then I have to be about my day of making grocery money.
Please don’t think I am complaining here. I’m not. I really love what I do. I chose it, and I wouldn’t go back to teaching community college full-time for all the money or insurance in the world. But it is a challenge for those of us who make our incomes outside of corporate structures. It seems to me it’s time that we combine our resources and help each other as best we can. And I see that happening more and more.
Last week, I bartered pickles and jam for some social media advice from Inkling Media. I also talked with Shawn Smucker about his upcoming Fireside Writer’s Conference at which I will be speaking. I trade dinner for work often, and I trade my time for guidance regularly. It’s the work of community, this freelance thing – when it works well.
So all you folks who freelance full-time or part-time, how do you solve dilemmas like insurance and marketing? How do you leverage what you have now to further your business/art? What have you considered bartering for the sake of your work? What advice do you have for other freelancers?