On Living Without Stability:

Why we sacrifice ‘normal’ and what it means in the Real World.

I honestly thought I had gotten the hang of this self-employment thing. I can do my own tax returns without crying at the screen on the HMRC website. I can sit and sift through my receipts. I can publicise myself, live within my means, and am constantly looking for work and taking too much on.


But in the real world, unless you’re hanging with other artists, being self-employed makes you a risk.


Upon looking at flats, the face of the estate agent when I say that I’m self employed makes me try and give all the reasons I’m doing well, like I’m projecting all my Daddy issues onto the poor guy. ‘I make enough money to rent this flat! Honestly!’ I have savings, and good credit, and good references. But when you’ve only been self-employed a few years, even when your earnings are increasing, you’re not a safe bet.


I have seen people who are worse bets than I am. People who teeter on the edge of being fired, or never know how to keep hold of their money. I am a safe bet. But I was still too worried to say ‘writer’ when he asked me what I did. What did I say? Workshop facilitator. Which is also true. But how many fake made up terms could I have give him? Wordsmith co-ordination specialist? Personal Language Lecturer? Recreational Story Sharer?

People have an image of the artist as a layabout. And I have no doubt that unless I showed them my royalty statements, they would consider ‘writer’ to mean ‘unemployed.’ 

How do we challenge this?


-Appearances matter. I am quite a fan of hanging about in yoga pants and drinking so much coffee I think I’m going to shake out of my skull. But cliches are not your friend. 


-Arrogance. It’s important for you to know the value of your work and the value of what you have to offer. If you make it seem like it’s preposterous that you aren’t doing as well as a PAYE worker, then that’s the assumption that sticks.

-Know your facts and make compromises. If you know exactly how much you made last year, how much you can afford, and what your projected earnings are, then who’s going to question you. Know your numbers and you have your power.


-Don’t get rattled. People are going to doubt. They are going to think you can’t possibly live as a freelance artist. A lot of them are going to be irritated if you prove you can. But just chug along, like the little train who thought it could, and trust that your end goal is about more than just stability or normality, it’s about making a life you’re proud to live.


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