Freelancing is an uncertain thing. The very nature of it is about not knowing where your next job is going to come from, how long it’s going to last, how much it’s going to pay, and when the job after THAT one is going to appear. Freelancing is scary. Not having next month’s rent in the bank is scary and depressing. Watching all of your friends moving up the food chain in their straight jobs as salespeople, lawyers, bankers, whatever, is depressing. And sitting at the kitchen table at three in the morning with a pile of bills, making lists of everything that you can sell and everyone who owes you a few bucks is something that every freelancer has gone through, probably more than a few times.
Times like these test character. They test relationships. Not every spouse or significant other can stand this kind of financial uncertainty. A lot of people just don’t sign up for a marriage or relationship in which significant money issues are going to be part of the picture for at least a decade, probably more. Most freelancers are going to be scrambling to a large extent from their early 20’s to at least their early 30’s. If you are with someone who doesn’t get that, it’s going to be tough sledding on the relationship front. My wife has basically been a complete and total saint regarding our finances pretty much the whole time we’ve been together. The only time she has ever said any crazy stuff was when pregnancy came into the picture, and I choose to believe that it was the hormones talking, not my lovely wife, when she suggested that I sell all of my recording equipment so that we could afford better digs for the coming baby. Other than that one statement, she has been unbelievably patient and a total supporter of my career, and we’ve always considered ourselves a partnership. I’m not just blowing smoke when I say I couldn’t have done it without her.
I think I’ve been very lucky, in that for me, there never was any kind of alternative that seemed even remotely palatable other than being a creative person in the music business. I really had blinders on from the moment I was two or three years old and got my first toy musical instruments for Christmas. After that, I simply couldn’t imagine any other career except music. I was open-minded about the shape of what that career might look like, to be sure. Musician, producer, engineer, songwriter, composer. I definitely bounced around over the years, but even through all of those scary periods, when my future seemed bleakest, switching to something else was, for me, simply unthinkable. For most other people, it’s just not that simple. They get pressure from spouses or parents to grow up and get a “real job.” There is always something that seems more stable, with better pay, benefits, regular hours. It’s not for lack of talent that people leave this way of life. It’s because it’s so freaking HARD. People just get tired of how hard it is and quit.
So realize that no matter what you do, there are going to be the bad times. You just have to prepare for them, put your head down, believe in yourself and what you are doing, and get through them. THAT, more than anything else, is the real challenge. To stick it out.