This essay by indie cartoonist Faith Erin Hicks has been making the rounds, but it’s well worth reposting for anyone curious about the realities of the freelance life. Faith goes into the details of her finances, lifestyle, and decision making process as it relates to her goal to make a living through her comic book art. Obviously this is all subjective to her particular circumstances (for example, she lives in Canada and at least doesn’t have to worry about health care coverage) but the message is quite universal: if you truly want to follow your passion, there’s always a way, but you have to make some very tough decisions and real sacrifices:
“How do I survive?
First of all, let me say that I feel I am poor, but not deprived. I’m not going to yammer on about how I have it rough and scrape out a living, because I made a choice to work in comics, and I feel I’m very lucky that I’ve been able to make it work financially for this long. I’m very grateful. There are things I wish I had (like a house), but I don’t feel like I’m staring into the financial abyss. I live in a decent apartment in a decent part of a small city (Halifax). I like buying things like comics and sushi. I have a car. But there are choices I make that allow me to live cheaply. I do not buy new clothes. I rarely go to the movies. As much as I like buying comics, I voraciously use the library to read everything I might want to only read once. I do not have a cellphone (shock, horror!). I know, so behind the times. But I work at home, and a home phone is cheaper. I split my rent and expenses with my boyfriend, and before we moved in together, I lived with a roommate. It is sooooooo much easier to make your dollar last when you aren’t spending $800-900 on rent. I cook at home a lot, which is much cheaper than dining out. We do not have cable. My car is 10 years old, and I bought it outright used, so I didn’t pay interest on car payments. Spending over $20 is a big deal.”
I found her account to be honest and refreshing. One of my pet peeves is the endless array of books and essays that proclaim “follow your bliss” and extol the near-magical process by which the Universe will make your dream come true, without ever getting into the nitty gritty of, you know, reality. Sure, in order to truly pursue your dream, you need to let go of your fears and the lessons you’ve been taught your whole life about “this is how things are done.” But almost all “inspirational” accounts end there.
They don’t talk about the harsh reality of working a freelance job without any safety nets. They don’t discuss financial planning. They don’t present the importance of business and legal acumen. They don’t talk about the emotional toll of some of the sacrifices that you need to make (less free time for family and friends, more anxiety, etc.) on your path towards your goal. And I think that does a huge disservice to the creative audience. It breeds the sort of unprepared, clueless dreamer destined to fail.
A little reality goes a long way.
Anyway, there’s a lot more at the link, so do check it out if you’re interested in this sort of thing.