When I became a freelancer after six years of working full-time jobs, I knew the change would have a huge impact on my daily life. But what form this impact would take was a mystery. I had optimistic visions of greatly increased productivity, which turned out to be accurate — having autonomous control over my career path and financial wellbeing has motivated me to work harder than I ever have before.
I also had nightmares about becoming one of those writers who never leaves her house, and having my place in the world become nebulous and untethered. I've always been a bit of a homebody, and having an office job provided a social outlet, made me feel connected to a community, and simply helped to push me out into the world every day. I was worried my life would dissolve if there wasn't someplace I was obligated to show up.
So I was pleased to discover that becoming a New York City freelancer was in fact like joining a new (and increasingly large) community, one with its own shared rituals, rewards, and complaints. Part of the fun of freelancing is that it gives you so much flexibility to mold your day-to-day life, and as a result everyone's NYC freelance experience looks a bit different. But here are a few things I bet many of you, both New York and elsewhere, can relate to:
All those Manhattan suits refuse to take you seriously
They think that "freelance" is code for "unemployed," and that you're lying when you say you're busy. The truth is you probably work as many hours as they do, and it gets a little tedious to have to explain this constantly.
However, you NEVER get tired of gloating to those people about how awesome your life is
Because you can wake up whenever you want, wear whatever you want, and don't have to commute. (Though secretly you set your alarm early every day, but they don't need to know that).
The subway suddenly seems like a calm, quiet, and generally delightful place to sit and read a book
...until you somehow get stuck riding it at rush hour like everyone else.
When you're apartment hunting, your No. 1 location criteria is no longer subway access
Subway, schlubway! You don't commute, remember? Now all you care about is how many laptop-friendly coffee shops are located within a three-block radius...
Because when you skip the coffee shop, you don't interact with any living creature except your cat
Which is why you and your cat have an unusually intense relationship.
Your monthly coffee shop budget is almost double the cost of a monthly MetroCard
Which is kind of a nightmare, but hey! You need some human interaction in your life, and it's a lot cheaper than paying for coworking space.
Your hard-won status as a chic New York woman instantly implodes
There's a lot to be said for dressing up even though you work from home, but let's get real. You've worn the same flannel shirt for the last three days, while your stylish New York wardrobe rots in the back of your closet.
You just know you're going to meet-cute the love of your life in a coffee shop
But this dream dies fast, because you're too busy doing actual work to flirt. Also, you wear the same flannel shirt everyday, and your future husband doesn't need to know that about you quite so soon.
When a handsome stranger walks into your regular coffee shop, the sky parts and the angels sing because HELLOOOOOO FRESH MEAT
Then you remember that you don't have time to flirt. And if he comes back tomorrow he'll know about the flannel shirt, and then you can't marry him.
When your coffee shop is unusually busy...
you can't believe the audacity of all of those plebes taking up tables with their food and pleasant conversations. And then you remember this is what normal people do in restaurants, and also that you're a jerk.
On the rare occasions when you walk into a cafe to eat and socialize...
you can't believe the audacity of all those people taking up tables with their laptops
You develop really strong opinions about parenting based on how small children behave in coffee shops
Despite the fact that you have exactly zero children, and know nothing about parenting.
When you meet another freelancer from your neighborhood, you're determined to become BFFs STAT
Coffee shop buddies! Laptop dates! Which never pan out in reality, because no way you're walking an extra five blocks to their coffee shop. Looks like you're gonna have to find another way to make friends. As such...
The quality of your relationship with the barista on duty affects your emotional state for the entire day
Similarly, when a familiar barista leaves or a new one is hired, your entire life is thrown into turmoil.
When you show up at your usual coffee shop with an attractive person of your approximate age, your barista gets really excited because OMG ARE YOU TWO DATING?
They're just so, so happy that you aren't all alone, like you are the other 364 days of the year.
The first time your barista offers you a free coffee or pastry is the greatest day of your freelance life thus far
Yayyyyy she is your friend! You've made a new friend! She even invited you to come to her band's upcoming gig in Williamsburg! Your life isn't sad and lonely after all!