The Ups and Downs of Freelancing

Last night I asked my husband if it was alright if I go out for an evening next week (asking in the courtesy sense not in the “please let me out of the house” sense) and his response was “Are you going out on a work related thing or are you actually going out to have fun?”

I was a bit taken aback by this question but on reflection he has a point. Lately nearly all of my going out has involved work-related outings. They are all fun things – why would I spend an evening doing something I don’t like?! But they are all work-related. Either just because they are people I know from Twitter and conferences or because they are people I know from schools and businesses I work with. Many are events rater than traditional nights out. Games Based Learning forums, TeachMeet-type events, informal meetings with potential clients etc etc.

Since going freelance at Easter I have been wallowing in the pride of not having marking and planning to do in the evenings like I did when class-based. But it seems I have allowed too much work into my evenings in other ways. I don’t mind this at all. But I think I may have become a bore to anyone who doesn’t work in education!

I think mainly it is finances and guilt that make me anxious to never miss an event. Financially I am, of course, worse off as I am new to freelancing and losing my regular (very decent) teacher wage. Every penny counts now. Every meeting counts. Every networking event counts.

Also, though, I think my guilt has caused me to tell my husband that every evening/weekend event is possible work. I tell him the stories of the evening that relate to work rather than the ones where we were all just drinking and laughing about stories of being students etc. I do this because I want him to feel proud that I am working hard for us. I know he worries about money now that I do not have a regular wage. He has been unbelievably supportive about my career change and actually tried to get me to do it sooner. But I was the main wage earner so it is a concern. I do still make enough money in theory but now I am stuck in a series of invoicing circles where I have no idea when or how I will be paid. Will it be next week Next month? In two months? By BACS? By cheque?

I can no longer rely on money to arrive at a certain time. So I am conscious of every moment that involves spending money. Can I afford to pay for a restaurant lunch with a potential client? What if they then do not become a client and I am just left with a bill for lunch out when I had perfectly good packets of noodles at home?

So those are the main cons of freelancing so far.

However on the plus side:

I am happier than I have been for a long time and really feel like I am doing the right thing – for me, for my husband, for my future children, for schools and for my own mission of showing ICT in primary as something which doesn’t have to cost the earth (this mission is why I cannot charge what some freelancers do as it becomes counter-productive!)

I am meeting people who have been involved in my networking but who are now developing into friends who I feel I can count on for chats and advice for everything – even the non-educational stuff!

I am having a lot of fun. It might not seem so to my husband (must make sure I tell him the fun stories too) but I am loving every second.

I feel I am making a difference. I felt this before in school, of course, but now it feels more like it is less selfish. That may seem odd to those who think consultants are out for money over education but to me it is definitely the other way round. I could have stayed in a well-paid, secure job with my holidays (I have to work through summer to keep us afloat – finding that work is especially hard!) but I chose to do what I do because (and this may sound egotistical) I feel I have something valuable to offer schools. I think that, although there are many many many great people doing fantastic things with ICT in Primary (I know loads of them, luckily) there are still many schools who need help to ensure their students are getting fair access to the 21st Century learning stuff.

I am lucky that I have got pretty regular work at the moment. It’s not full time yet and I haven’t got the right balance yet. But I hope I will.

If I don’t then I guess it is back to the drawing board. Or the Interactive White Board at least.

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