Proud to Be Freelance

Owen-Smith-Illustration-021

Illustration: Owen Smith

THERE’S A FINE LINE between self-employed and out of work, and there have been times I wasn’t sure which side of the line I was on. My career — as a freelance design writer, mostly — has had its ups and downs. I’ve had few day jobs, most recently from 2000 to 2003 as editor-in-chief of Modernism Magazine, a quarterly about 20th century design. For the most part, I’ve been freelance, a word I always thought had exhilarating connotations, but which many people seem to regard as a half-step up from the gutter.

I’ve had long-running regular columns in The New York Times ‘Styles’ section (“Foraging,” about off-beat shopping), Metropolitan Home magazine (“America the Collectible”), and hundreds upon hundreds of articles published in shelter and travel magazines and various national newspapers. Still, I occasionally get, “Are you on staff somewhere these days, or are you still…<sniff>… freelance?

Kristin Cardinale, the author of a new book, The 9 to 5 Cure, wants to scotch the word freelance altogether and replace it with “patchworking.” It means the same as freelancing — working for a variety of different clients — while conjuring up a bunch of old ladies sitting around making ugly quilts. I was so riled by this latest attempt to stigmatize a great word that I commented on a media website post about the new book:

I say, be PROUD to be freelance! It’s a great, swashbuckling word, originally used for knights who owed their fealty to no one lord (hence, the free lance). Let’s turn the ‘negative stigma’ into a positive, for godssakes. The picture you paint of cafe-sitting, game-playing, and desperate phone calls is not an accurate one. Freelancing is about freedom, and taking charge of your own career, not being chained to aggravation and office politics.

Lately, thanks to my income-producing property, I hustle less for writing work, and live at a more relaxed pace. I do enough writing to keep the brain from atrophying, and have plenty of time for leisurely walks and swims and lunches, and puttering in the garden (soon!) — a life more or less indistinguishable from a vacation.

And now I have a new word to describe my present career stage, and I’m growing to like the sound of it: semi-retirement.

About cara

I blog for fun here at casaCARA, and write about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites. My recently published posts and articles can be found here: https://casacara.wordpress.com/recent-articles/
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8 Responses to Proud to Be Freelance

  1. Harriet says:

    I, too, am proud to be a freelancer. Patchworking? Ugh.

  2. Elke says:

    BRAVA!!! AS MUCH AS I LIKE QUILTS……AND SOME WONDERFUL CONTEMPORARY PATCHWORK IN FIBER AND PAPER….I AGREE,THE TITLE ‘PATCH WORKING’, IS TRYING TOO HARD TO BE NEW AND IS ALL WRONG IN THE CONTEXT OF ‘FREELANCING’ …..GLAD TO NOW KNOW THE GENESIS OF THE WORD..

  3. Patti Hinkle says:

    You “patch” something that’s broken. In my opinion–what you’re doing certainly isn’t broken.

  4. Elke says:

    PATTI, WELL SAID!

  5. cara says:

    Why, thanks, Patti and Elke. If it’s not broke, I guess I shouldn’t keep thinking I have to fix it…

  6. Kristi says:

    I’ve always been proud to be a freelancer. I’m a freelance art director in advertising because I wanted the breaks between jobs to work on my real love, fiction writing. It took me a couple years to realize that other people equate it with being unemployed! It’s definitely tougher now (the economy and my age) but I still wear it as a badge of honor.

  7. cara says:

    hi Kristi, thanks for commenting. I see you’re a freelance blogger as well, on a subject close to my heart: antiques & collecting. Oh, and as for equating freelance with unemployed, I’ve always secretly felt we freelancers work harder and longer than people with jobs!

  8. Kristi says:

    yes, I always say freelancers’ #1 goal is to be asked back, so we work harder.

    Love you blog, I follow it on Google Reader. Mine is on hiatus for now while I try to figure out a new direction for it, but it was interesting to see at the time what new avenues it might open.

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