The “Joys” Of Being An Independent Contractor

Perhaps it is early onset Alzheimers, but I’m beginning to forget things. A lot of things. I don’t generally forget my work assignments or where I’m supposed to head off to next, but the details get muddled or cast away with last night’s compost. Add to this the fact that I write for multiple clients and multiple publications, and I start to forget what I’ve written where and for whom. Thus, kindly forgive me if I’m repeating myself.

Recently I’ve noticed an uptick in the number of spam messages on social media websites, most of them offering a way to “earn money by working from home.” Well, technically speaking, I work from home. I have several jobs that require a part-time office presence, but the bulk of my work is completed from the confines of my little desk in my dingy apartment in New York City’s Lower Manhattan. For how much longer I can sit in Lower Manhattan, I’m not sure (they keep raising my rent… but I digress…).

There are two questions I really dread. “What do you do?” seems to be the lead in to every introduction. I have never understood the implication of this question, any more than I have the nonsense of “How are you?” (“I’m fine thanks, how are you? … Very well, thank you for asking!” When both parties are neither fine nor very well.) I could make something up and lie (I frequently bent the truth in my last job, a demeaning foray into administration; I would say, “I work for an architect,” which—inevitably—led to, “Oh! Are you an architect!” grumble grumble). So, whenever I am asked, “What do you do?” despite the urge to answer, “Oh, you know, I eat and breathe and tinkle and get up in the morning and go to bed at night…” I say—knowing all too well the follow-up question—”I am a writer.”

“Oh! What do you write?”

The answer is “What don’t I write?” but I usually say, “Whatever I get paid to write.” There was a “once upon a time” when writers were journalists. Now, for the most part, that industry is gone. I’ve managed to stay afloat with some marketing-communications work (this is the best paying of my gigs, usually ranging anywhere from $15-$50/hour), but for the most part I do small jobs here and there and write a lot of e-books. In fact, in the past seven months, I have been paid to write over 150,000 words in e-books; 157,000 words in blog posts; 13,000 words in business plans; and probably another 100,000 words in PRs. Add that up (I’m exhausted just looking at it) and you get to close to half a million words I’ve written in the past seven months that I was paid to write. I’m not talking about the non-paid work (heaven knows how much I’ve written in that department, although I know I haven’t touched any of my fiction since I took on this workload).

So, if you round, I’ve written (for pay) roughly 1,600 words per day, every day, for the past seven months. While that may sound like a part-time job, keep in mind I do desktop publishing and montor Quickbooks for two additional companies (also as an Independent Contractor… it’s the dirty little secret of the “economic recovery” that no one is hiring permanent employees). By the time I pay my taxes, I’m netting roughly $25/day. It’s enough to make me want to go work at Starbucks for tips!

However, I like writing. And at least I can hold my head high when someone asks, “What do you do?” And I answer, “I am a writer.” Even if it isn’t the path to fame and fortune. I like what I’m doing, which is more than many can claim.

But, do me a favor: Please don’t tell me how “lucky” I am to work from home.

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