Freelancing Is Sustainable on One Condition: You Turn Into a Hamster
If you can’t handle the grind of “hamstering”, this may not be for you
I love being a freelancer.
I set my own hours and rates, I don’t have to sit in on long work meetings that lead nowhere, and the introvert inside me squeals with happiness each time a new contract is opened without any face-to-face interaction.
The fact that I love writing and delivering high-quality content is definitely a plus.
There is a side to freelancing that stresses the hell out of me, though.
When you become a freelancer, you’re basically mixing the mad artist from the olden days who barely scrapes by with the passionate hustler of the 21st century.
Creating for a living feels glorious during sudden spikes of inspiration, and when you see all the money flowing in, you feel on top of the world.
It’s the best of both worlds — a business mindset combined with an artist’s love for the craft.
Unfortunately, if you’re not careful, the scraping-by-factor can take up way too much space in your freelancing life, leading to stress and worry.
Something has to pay the rent, after all, and if it doesn’t, well…
There might not be any space left to be taken up.
This is the part where we talk hamsters.
Hamstering your way to freedom
“Hamstering”, a term coined by me at the exact moment of writing this (13:55 on a random Tuesday in May 2022, if you’re wondering), refers to:
“An act of continually pursuing new opportunities in case the ones present at this moment disappear.”
After two years of freelancing, after many successful months and many months that led me to clean toilets just to get by, I can now officially say that freelancing is only sustainable if you’re an amazing hamster.
I’m not a big fan of regular 9–5 jobs. It reminds me too much of when I had to go to school 5 days a week even when I knew I’d be able to do more studying in my bedroom at home.
Not to mention I simply despise being told what to do, where to do it, when to do it, how to do it, and no, you can’t take the first week in June off because Julia’s already booked her holiday before you, so too bad for you, sucker!
No holiday and more work!
(Because Julia’s gone, remember?)
Just thinking about the lack of flexibility makes me shiver. I probably hate it so much because to me, time is freedom.
When I’m forced to let another human being be in charge of my time without my having a proper say in it, I feel like I’m suffocating.
Freelancing doesn’t suffocate you, so it’s already much higher on my list of desirable career paths.
It does keep sliding through your fingers, though. When you follow it, it can turn a corner and suddenly vanish into thin air, the last few dollars left in its wake as if to mock you.
This is why hamstering is essential to successful freelancing.
While there are five different freelance opportunities opening up to you, telling you how much long-term work you’ll be getting, three of them are already turning their backs on their words and aiming for other goals.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed working with most of my clients. I have a few long-term contracts I cherish.
I also understand my clients have more important responsibilities than providing me with a stable income.
But that’s the thing. This is how the life of a freelancer works. There are no strings attached. You have few responsibilities toward your clients and they toward you.
Sometimes it simply works until it doesn’t. Sometimes the work dries up. No matter the reason, clients often come and go — and you, the freelancer, have to keep spinning the wheel.
Because if you don’t, if you stop looking for new clients, thinking you have enough, you might not be able to earn the amount you’ve been aiming for.
I’ve got five open contracts on Upwork right now. I know I have to keep looking, keep applying, keep building my presence on the platform.
Because when a client suddenly leaves, there needs to be another one to take their place.
The Bottom Line
Sometimes, you stumble upon a client who does provide you with regular income and does do it on a long-term basis.
It’s never certain, however.
While you’re working for clients, always stay on the lookout for more opportunities. Always work on building your social media presence, on diversifying your income.
Keep running, and the wheel will spin like crazy. Yes, it gets stressful, it gets tiring, it gets annoying.
But you get to go on a holiday whenever you want. You get to be the master of your time. Of your freedom.
Some things are simply worth hamstering for.
About the Creator
Student of Literature & Languages. I write about relationships, self-improvement, lifestyle, writing and mental health. Contact me: [email protected]
Great article. Captures all the essentials