The 15 hour work week sounds really nice. I often work that in a single day. The idea of the 9-5, 40 hour work week? Forget it. A typical day for me starts around 4-5 in the morning and goes until 17-18 in the evening. I have worked as little as 5 minutes in a single day (I bill an hour for that) and as much as 32 hours in one stretch. From week to week, I may have work or I may not. It’s unpredictable and my schedule changes constantly. And every project pays differently.
When you go from working for someone to freelancing, staying employed becomes part of work in itself. If you are good at what you do, have the necessary credentials, and are good at making work relationships, you can keep yourself employed and make a lot of money. The amount of money you make depends on your field of work and the amount of unpaid work you put into it. You have a measure of control over your schedule. You can take two weeks off just by not looking for work or turning down work when it is offered. You don’t have to approve your time off with anyone, you just do it. On the other hand, you have to keep your clients and employers happy. They depend on your work to make them money and if you are not dependable they will find someone that is. If you turn down too much work you are offering opportunities to your competition; even if your competition is a friend or colleague, you are still in competition. So time off becomes networking time and skill improvement time.
Before becoming a freelancer I had associated the title with writers and journalists but the concept can accommodate almost any career path. With the rise of Uber, TaskRabbit, and the like, more and more people are becoming freelancers. Some estimate that 34% of Americans have participated in the gig economy, up from 5% only 20 years ago.
I have an unusual career which most people outside of my circle of friends and colleagues will be unfamiliar with. I am a biologist for hire. Actually, I take issue with calling people in my field biologists as I generally associate the term with science. I am an Environmental Compliance Consultant, but that title is more cumbersome. My work is more or less project based. I am sometimes employed and sometimes self-employed. I work primarily in the Mojave Desert, in an approximate 350 mile radius centered on Las Vegas. I travel a lot; so far this year I have spent about 60% of my nights at home.
To be honest, I enjoy this way of working. The uncertainty of working on a project for a while and not knowing what comes next might be unsettling for some people. I dread the thought of going to work every Monday through Friday and getting only 2 weeks vacation per year. In proportion of days at work to not at work, I think I’ve been at work less than most people in careers or full time jobs. And I make more than enough to cover my fairly simple lifestyle during the time off.