The Tyranny of the Safety NetDecember 9, 2014
I’ve fallen victim to an unexpected lust: the amount of money I can make as a contractor at my day job.
The month after I quit my job to write books, I made twice as much doing contract work as I made when I was full-time and salaried, working two fewer days per month than I used to.
In the last four days, I made what I used to make in two weeks.
When you’ve got five figures of student loan debt breathing down your back, the possibility of making that kind of money all the time is nothing short of dazzling.
And the day job is more fun than it used to be, too, because the web of obligations is boiled down to the minimum. When I was salaried and full-time, I resented the HELL out of long days, big projects, special requests, or last-minute problems — because there was no reward for any of it. I wasn’t going to get paid more, it wasn’t going to push me further into consideration for a promotion, I wasn’t going to get any recognition, it was just expected that I’d do whatever I was told whenever I was told and thank my employer for the privilege of having such a nice job. (Don’t you even start to comment that I was just working for the wrong company. This is 2014. They are ALL the wrong company.) I kicked ass at all of it anyway, because not doing so meant fucking over innocent customers. Helping the customers felt good, but swiping out at the end of the day didn’t.
But now, as a contractor? I get paid more for working long days. I get paid more for finishing big projects. I get paid more for fulfilling special requests. I get paid more for fixing last-minute problems. I’ll never get promoted or recognized, but I don’t care because if I work more and/or harder, I get paid more. And because I still kick ass at my job, employers call me first when they have work. (And then they even still thank me a lot of the time. Fancy that. I, as a mercenary, get more gratitude from my employers than I ever did when I was employed full-time.)
What’s funny about this is that it’s not really any different from the thinking I need to be embracing as an author and an entrepreneur. The harder and more I work at it, the more it’s going to pay off in the end.
Of course, it’s not yet going to pay off as quickly or as neatly as it does to work harder at my day job, and it’s almost certainly going to be a while before they match each other in income. Also, while I’m already well versed in and pretty good at my day job, I’m brand new to being a full-time writer and a one-woman business, and a lot of my time is still spent learning how this is done and getting more skilled and more disciplined at it.
And therein lies the rub. It’s so much easier to just sign up for some contract work and go drive somewhere and do what I’m trained to do/good at doing, and collect a big pile of money at the end.
But did you want to slap me when you read that last sentence? You should have! I want to slap myself!
Because “easy” isn’t the point. This new job? This one I’m making for myself, right here? It is way more difficult, way more confusing, way more debilitating to my confidence (at this point I cannot imagine ever being able to say that I kick ass at this), and way more frustrating than my day job. … but even at the end of the lousiest day, I get something I never got from my day job: the knowledge that today, I took one step closer to making my dreams come true.
(Some of those steps definitely land in a pile of shit, though. Not gonna lie. Like when you spend a day typing at warp speed banging out an awesome book chapter, and then the second you reread it you see you’ve written yourself into a corner. Or when you’re tinkering with the code for something, only to realize you fucked it up hours ago.)