Guilt-Free Freelancing by Dawn Stanton

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I’ve always felt guilty that I never seemed able to hold a “regular” job. My husband has worked as a technical writer in the same company for six years. He likes it. During those six years, I’ve worked as an Editorial Assistant, Office Manager, Marketing Associate, and ESL Teacher, not to mention lots of forgettable temp jobs. Even in the most interesting jobs, including one where I worked onsite at a conference in Paris, France, I got bored, or else I recognized limited opportunity for advancement. (When you work in a three-person company and the other two people are the President and Principal Consultant, you know your options are limited.)

Freelancing was what I really wanted to do. But I felt guilty knowing I could live comfortably on my husband’s income while I got my freelance business off the ground. It didn’t seem fair. I had it too easy, and I didn’t want to take advantage of the situation. I wanted to contribute my half. Eventually, though, I realized my peace of mind depended on trying to freelance, even if my basic survival didn’t.

When I returned to Pittsburgh from teaching English in Taiwan in December 2000, I didn’t look for another job immediately. Instead, I stayed home and wrote and wrote and wrote. I wrote without submitting anything anywhere for about three months.

Finally I took a chance and submitted some articles about Taiwan to an Asia-related Web site. The articles led to a larger project, which then gave me the courage to call myself a freelancer. Once I got the word out that I was freelancing full-time, two more projects came via friends. They were practically dumped in my lap, and one of the projects looks like it might lead to future work with the same client. I’ve also found clients in organizations where I used to work or volunteer, and on Web sites like Writersweekly.com, which I check regularly unless my schedule is full.

Guilt was the main obstacle I had to overcome. Dumb, isn’t it? In the beginning, I felt guilty because I thought I should work a traditional office job. I felt guilty staying home to write with no income to show for it. (I now earn twice the hourly rate of my highest paid “regular” job. In some cases, I have clients sign my contract.) Then for a while I felt guilty that my husband had to get up every morning and stumble off to an office while I could sleep late, keep the cat on my lap at the computer, and watch the 12 o-clock news during my lunch break.

When I stopped feeling bad, I saw how happy we both could be with the new situation. If only my favorite foods could be this guilt-free!

Dawn Stanton is a Pittsburgh-based freelance writer who lives with her husband and two spoiled-rotten cats. She has a BA in English Writing and has pursued Chinese language studies for several years. Personal and professional travels have taken her to Taiwan, Japan, France, Mexico, and Scotland (where she and her husband eloped).

Her articles have appeared on ThingsAsian.com, and in Transitions Abroad Magazine and Pittsburgh City Paper. She also enjoys writing fiction, usually about vampires, ghosts, and other things that go bump in the night.