Filed under:

Susan Glickman

Time to Put the “Free” Back in “Freelance”

Painting by Susan Glickman
Painting by Susan Glickman

I make my living as a freelancer, which means I work pretty much every single day, all year long. My only breaks are brief visits to out-of-town family. Real holidays are rare — perhaps once every five years.

Sound familiar?

I suspect many of you are like me. We never know when the next job will arrive or how much it will pay, so we don’t turn anything down. There are days we barely shower or sleep or eat; days the dog is neglected, the garden overgrown, personal emails unanswered; and days we go to bed at 1 a.m. and drag ourselves up at 7 to do it all over again.

Since 2008, I’ve edited 34 books. I also wrote and published three children’s books, two novels, and one book of poetry; on my desk are two more as-yet-unpublished manuscripts: a book of poetry and a YA novel. I presented one conference paper and published five essays. I taught 21 creative-writing courses in the continuing education programs of U of T and Ryerson and guest-taught a couple of creative writing classes at Queen’s and an English literature class at Dalhousie. I also mentored three novelists and three poets, judged two poetry competitions and was on juries for an OAC poetry grant and the Bronwen Wallace Award in short fiction.

During this period, daily life refused to stop to accommodate my workload. Both my children finished high school and went to university. My father-in-law passed away, and then we had to pack up my mother-in-law’s house and move her. My husband and son had major surgeries, and my own mother died after battling cancer. Last year I finally decided enough was enough. I took a sabbatical from teaching and writing — though I’m still editing, because I need to make money — and went to art school.

I have no words to describe how much FUN I am having! Here are a few reasons why:

  1. I am making art for art’s sake, without worrying about how it will be received or whether it will sell.
  2. I get immediate and supportive feedback on my work.
  3. I am enjoying the company and conversation of other people after too many years working in almost complete isolation.
  4. I don’t have to attend to other people’s needs all the time. Both teaching and editing are extremely empathetic professions that require one to listen to others’ voices and respect their feelings, and when you add caregiving to the mix, too much goes out and not enough goes in.

So all you other over-conscientious freelancers out there, learn from my example not to work yourself to exhaustion. Art school might not be the right solution for you, but replenish yourself whenever and however you can. Life is too short to work all the time!


Susan Glickman’s previous post on freelancing: What Does It Take to Start Freelancing?

The Editors’ Weekly is the official blog of Editors Canada. Contact us.

Discover more from The Editors' Weekly

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

7 Comments on “Time to Put the “Free” Back in “Freelance””

  • Rosemary Shipton


    Your story sure does sound familiar, Susan. Let me add another reason to what you’ve already set out: many of us have publishing and individual clients who return to us again and again, and it’s extremely difficult to turn them down because we’re “too busy.” The editor-writer relationship is similar to the doctor-patient relationship, and it demands commitment from both parties.

  • Anita Jenkins


    I am flabbergasted by this post. I guess if you edit books this happens because the industry doesn’t pay a living wage and you can’t get blood out of a stone?

    I viewed my work in the public sector as a business and did my best to ensure that I made enough money in about 25 hours a week to live on comfortably. And to provide funds for retirement savings, health care, a vacation (admittedly rarely over 10 days because it’s hard to leave a one-person office for long.) If that hadn’t been the case, I would’ve looked for another way to get a satisfactory income – much as I adored being my own boss and working from home.

    I did work crazy hours sometimes. That’s definitely part of freelancing. But then I had a week or two off. I used to say that when I went freelance for the first time in my life I got enough sleep. No punching the clock and commuting to show up at some terribly early hour like 8:15 am.

    I hope others are not working this terribly hard for such little monetary award. But I fear they are…

  • Susan


    I am interested to hear other people’s responses to this. I make very little money but that’s more the fault of the time I spend writing than the time I spend editing.

    • Anita I. Jenkins


      Business writing tends to pay more than editing since so many people think all editors do is correct grammar and punctuation. I realize the other kind of writing (that we readers are eternally grateful for) sadly doesn’t often produce dollars. I couldn’t go there but as I say I am glad that others do.

  • Isabel Redondo


    I admire your fortitude, Susan. My editing career is very structured, although I do work very crazy hours. Like you, I also decided to make time for art and I take a course here and there. It’s my oxygen. My outlook on life, with its hectic schedule and chronic sleep deprivation, has improved tenfold. I’m curious, are you enrolled in a full-time fine arts program (my goal on retirement) or are you just taking a few courses for fun?

    • I am enrolled in a wonderful program at Central Technical School in Toronto for 3 hours a day.

  • Anita Jenkins


    Maybe a bit off topic, but interesting. A blog called Mr. Money Mustache lists the pros and cons of working from home. I am more of an extrovert than introvert, so I had to work hard to overcome the downsides. I tried to have lots of lunch dates and looked for jobs that involved meetings and travel with a committee or team.

    The upsides to remote work are pretty obvious:
    – No life-sucking car commute.
    – A flexible schedule.
    – No office overhead.
    – No drop-in distractions.
    – No awkward birthday situations (for introverts).
    – No geographical restrictions when hiring top talent.

    The downsides are less obvious, but also pretty fierce:
    – No life-giving bike commute.
    – Face-to-face is gone, and video chats are still a far cry from a replacement.
    – No awkward birthday situations (for extroverts).
    – Timezone lag.
    – Loss of over-the-shoulder collaboration.
    – Loss of visual cues in body language and other communication nuance.

Comments are closed.

To top