Freelance Fridays: Everybody’s Hustling


Every writer makes mistakes sometimes. Here is how to stay afloat.

I had been working on a grant application for weeks.

I attended meetings, assembled maps and photos, spent hours going over figures.  I asked a gazillion questions and made tons of notes and suggestions. I went through the solicitation line by line, again and again. Finally, I submitted a lengthy, beautifully formatted document at the beginning of deadline day.

Freelance Fridays: Coffee
Drink up freelancers, it’s Friday!

And then I got an e-mail. The match proposal was unacceptable. All of the objections were based on criteria that had not been clearly stated in writing (two other, far more experienced grant-writing experts had read the same solicitation with

me and come to the same conclusions about the rules that I had), but the powers-that-had-moolah were not budging. I had about six hours to work it out and resubmit the entire thing or we were dead in the water.

I called the top grant reviewer and the back-and-forth went nowhere. I called my consultants. I called everybody.
After about three hours of calling, e-mailing, and texting, I finally reached my client, who, rather understandably, wanted to know why the money people suddenly wanted him to come up with twice his planned cash match. And although I had come back to him with a strong su

ggestion for minimizing out-of-pocket costs, he objected to the principle of the whole thing. The government was annoying and unreasonable. Why did we need them involved again?  Hell if I knew, except for the “not enough money in bank for this project” part.

The phrase “unmitigated disaster” was never more apropos.

Exhausted from an afternoon spent bouncing from call to call, frantically trying to resolve the crisis, and emotionally hovering somewhere between fury and resignation, I let my other half know it was high time for a drink or twelve.

“I lost $50,000 today,” I told him.

I’m married to a contractor. I get only so much sympathy.

“That’s really bad, if you look at it that way,” he said.

Losing sucks. It’s also part and parcel of the freelancing deal. Instead of dwelling on the loss, I needed to focus on landing—and completing—the next job.

There’s an attractive mythos surrounding freelancing, in which we lucky few get to sleep in, eschew real pants, eat junk food all day, and avoid the general hassles associated with bosses and routines and day jobs, all while charging top dollar to crank out works of creative brilliance. The truth is that it’s just a slightly glamorized form of contracting—that thing where you pay both halves of Social Security, answer to dozens of different people with competing agendas, wait months to get paid, and are constantly on the hunt for your next gig because you presumably like food. The trick to staying afloat? Keep moving.


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