Where I spend 60% of my time.

Labor Day in the Life of a Freelancer

I’ve been working for most of my waking hours since January. I’ve experienced several rounds of burnout. I’ve tried to implement the Pomodoro method and improve my self-care. I’ve neglected my once-robust workout routine and I consume entirely too much coffee.

Now that I’m a full-time freelancer, I feel like I can never stop working. Today is not a day of rest for me. It’s a day where I can inch a little more forward than I can on other days.

Unlike many holidays in which the barbecues and parties were tacked on later, Labor Day started as a day off. It was always meant to give workers temporary relief from their oppressive jobs.

As Jenny Justice points out in this excellent piece, for those of us in the gig economy, there isn’t really a day off. Or any time off. We’re always hustling. We’re always oppressed.

And so “holidays” take on a different meaning for us. While most people imagine themselves laying by a pool sipping mimosas, I imagine finally having time to launch yet another blog project. While most people stock up on chips and dip and get ready to overeat, I imagine finally having the energy to organize my closet.

It’s definitely a slippery slope — when do you stop working, if holidays aren’t defining it for you? Can you stop working?

As a member of the gig economy who splurges on 50-cent avocados at Aldi, I’m a stereotypical millennial. Boomer experts are quick to marvel at millennials’ “fondness” for the gig economy and their “decision” to forgo “traditional” jobs.

Ha! I won’t say I don’t love being a freelancer, but traditional, supportive jobs with a full benefits package have eluded me. Not because I’m unqualified: I am educated, and I have a broad skillset and team spirit. In fact, I’ve been told I’m overqualified. They can’t afford me. Ironically, that leaves me underemployed or unemployed.

Plus, most millennials are not part of the gig economy, and those who are, aren’t necessarily there by choice. On days like today, when we’re primarily celebrating the 9-to-5ers, I and many of the other accidental contractors feel a little ignored. When will we get “real jobs,” our parents wonder?

Meanwhile, I wonder when all my work will pay off. With each milestone passed comes a new, bigger one with a thornier path. My website is done: now I have to optimize it for search engines. I’ve surpassed $1,000 earnings on Upwork: now I have to negotiate for higher rates of pay. I’ve made a few clients through referrals: now I have to start cold-calling people.

The work never ends, and unlike in a “traditional” job, there’s never a feeling of completion. It’s always a hustle.

Writer by day, circus artist by night. I write about art, media, culture, health, science, and where they all meet. Join my list: http://eepurl.com/gD53QP

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