When the pandemic hit, I, like many others, feared for my life because I have a medical condition that leaves me vulnerable. My previous job was at a pharmacy and there was no way I was going to continue working there. Risking illness and death for a low-paying job, that was a part of a larger toxic corporation, was not an option. I hunkered down at home and applied for unemployment, which didn’t provide as much support as I needed. So I decided to take on freelancing as a writer.

My dream “job” is to author books but I’ve always known that I can’t just subsist on writing fiction when starting out. I was going to need a job and I preferred it to be dealing with writing and editing. Another appeal of freelancing was being able to work on my own at home. My degrees in English and Journalism, as well as my love for reading, provided me the background and experience to successfully edit for other writers.

But I didn’t think this when I first started. In fact, when I created my freelancing profile, I got no orders. When I later reexamined it, I realized the issue wasn’t with the services I offered or my experience, but rather the pricing and scope of my gigs. Once I changed that, I started to get, and have continued to receive, an almost overwhelming amount of work. On the one hand, I’m glad to be getting projects in a field I’m interested in. However, the only way to really attract any clients was by severely undercharging for my services. It lands me in an unfortunate position of being overworked and underpaid.

Freelancing can be a financially arduous journey, and being underpaid is a kick in the teeth. It undermines the value of your time and effort spent on a task. There is also the possibility of being taken advantage of and, to some degree, I’ve experienced this.

When freelancing, it can be difficult to reject a commission even if you’re uninterested or busy.  I have two novels waiting to be edited and just got another order in today and I can’t bring myself to tell the new buyer that I’m currently overwhelmed. I just have to make it work. If I don’t, the cancellation will affect my reputation on the platform.

I have not been able to find a stable, full-time job in my industry. And at this point in my life, my only other option for work may be going back to where I was at the pharmacy. But even with the amount of stress I’m currently undergoing with freelance, I don’t struggle the way I did when I worked at that pharmacy. I don’t end my day wanting to lapse back into self-harm. I’m not being dehumanized in the way I was at that company.

And freelancing hasn’t been without its benefits. It strips you of associations with company organizations and position titles, so your recognition comes through your work. Before starting freelancing, I had asked myself, what does my experience actually consist of?  My education means that I know how to write about writing in and of itself. This felt redundant and useless.  But I’ve had mostly positive reviews on the projects I’ve completed and that has reassured me that, yes, my education and my passion are useful.

I’ve also found that my freelancing work is beneficial to people who may not have the means to get their works edited by more prestigious editors who charge higher prices. Many of my clients are self-published, just starting out, or struggle with English. This does not mean that their work is not valuable. Money should not be a barrier to creating art and in this way, freelancing is beneficial to the creative community within which I operate. 

The ultimate question for me is; if I wasn’t unemployed would I take on freelancing full-time? I truly don’t know how financially feasible freelancing full-time is at this point, but I am learning that the more I do, the better I get at it and I am capable of carving out my own path doing something I like.

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

  • Amanda Justice

    Amanda Justice was born and raised in Los Angeles but has spent a significant amount of time living in middle Tennessee as well as England and New Zealand before returning to California. She has a Bachelor’s in English Literature and a Master’s in Journalism and when not writing she enjoys traveling, reading horror, urban fantasy, and romance, gaming, and watching campy fantasy shows.