I wish I could give credit where credit is due, but I can't remember where I first read about "the Freelance Fairy." It was in some book or blog written by a freelance writer, talking about the unpredictability of income when one works freelance.
It's true—you can't anticipate when new jobs are going to come in, or when exactly the payment for those jobs will arrive. The fabled Freelance Fairy was the sprite who brought in new work or a check in the mail whenever the writer was running low on cash.
When I prepared to leave my full-time job in January, Matt and I were prepared for the changes this new career move would bring for our income and our expenses (boo for higher health insurance rates, yay for using less gas!) But it's been interesting to adjust to the differences between being salaried and being freelance.
The most essential difference is just how directly work = money. On salary, you might have a really busy week that requires long hours, or you might be taking a week's vacation, but your paycheck still comes at the same time and for the same amount. As a freelancer, the more work you do, the more money you make. Period.
So if I wake up at 2 a.m. and can't get back to sleep, the thought, "well, might as well make some money," can legitimately enter my head, and I'll get up and do a couple hours' work, until I feel sleepy again. (I sleep pretty well, even with a four-year-old snuggled so close to me it feels like she's trying to crawl right into my skin, so that doesn't happen often.) One could do that as a salaried employee, but it wouldn't equate to a bigger paycheck, just maybe a lighter to-do list the next day.
I've been fortunate to continue doing a lot for my former employer, and being able to submit hours on a weekly basis, so I can count on having some income each week, as well as some steady work that always needs doing. Bigger projects that pay one flat fee are more the milieu of the Freelance Fairy, and pop up when you least expect them. I have had a constant string of big deadlines from May through, well, today (if I can knock this last bit out tonight!) but very little on the radar for the fall.
I'm excited about this for the moment, since Matt and I have a little getaway planned for the two of us and I'm looking forward to a light August, where I can ease up the pace just a little bit and do some writing. But given that more work = more money now, I have two competing fears going into my "light month": One, that a big, short-deadline job will come my way in the next couple weeks and I'll be tempted to take it even though I've really been needing and looking forward to this deadline-free time. And Two, that it won't. Or rather, that it won't come even after I've enjoyed my little vacation. What if my light fall stays light?
Given how suddenly the Freelance Fairy swoops in, and how she dive-bombed me repeatedly this spring, such that I've been in intense on-deadline mode for essentially three months straight, I feel pretty confident that she'll do some fly-bys in the coming months, but you never know. That's part of the challenge of this new adventure, and I'm loving every minute.