Walking the tightrope

There is a certain precarious feeling that will be familiar to any of you out there who are part of the gig economy. It doesn’t matter whether you’re building up your own freelance business (like yours truly) or if you’re chained to a corporation on a zero-hours contract—you have no surety of income, and that’s a hell of a tightrope to walk.

On the one side is a degree of freedom. As a freelancer, I can work the hours that best suit my needs, set my own goals and strategies, shift focus nimbly without seeking permission, take breaks as and when I need. I can even pick and choose the gigs I want to take (*more or less.) But the household bills still tug at me from the other side, arriving regularly, relentlessly, regardless of circumstances.

Listen, and understand! Those bills are out there. They can't be bargained with. They can't be reasoned with. They don't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And they absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

Essential service providers have the leverage to make demands, and therein lies the imbalance. You need them far more than they need you. It takes nerves of steel to walk the tightrope without a safety net—and let’s be honest, that’s all a full-time contract means for a great many people: a safety net. As the badly wounded Britain staggered from Brexit into Covid-19, you might wonder how any sane person could say, ‘screw it, I’m going freelance’. Well screw it, I did. You have to take long shots sometimes, and if there’s one role I was born for, it’s Editor.

So anyway, here I am a year later – wobbling on the tightrope as Bojo the Clown readies his next custard pie – and I’m trying to take the Next Big Step in establishing credibility and value. My journey towards becoming a Professional Membership of the CIEP requires (among other things) some references from ‘satisfied clients who understand the publishing process.’ In other words, it’s not deemed sufficient to have testimonials from the indie market. Thankfully, the CIEP have handy job listings to help us secure gigs with traditional publishers.

Time to throw my hat in the ring!


* People on zero hours contracts have a similar (dubious) freedom to turn down work, but there’s an extra choke-chain: your employer has the power to exact vengeance by simply withholding work (and therefore pay) in the future. Made plans? Cancel them. Child-care issues? Tough. And you daren’t get an extra job for fear of flexi-hours clashing.

thefinetoothed.com Your work, elevated.

Further reading:

This feels like a good place for me to reassert my Principles, promises and values as The Fine-toothed Comb.

For my thoughts and experiences regarding difficult situations, check out Seeking Resolution.

If you’d rather chill out and listen to some great stories on your lunch break, you can check out my Audio page.




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