A Freelancer’s Thanksgiving

Why I’m Grateful for My Career

On Thursday, I’ll gather with my family and give thanks for the blessings we’ve enjoyed over the past year, the bounty we share, and the support we provide each other as siblings, parents and grandparents. 

But today, before I close my computer, I want to express gratitude for my freelance life and the content marketing business it allowed me to create. Freelancing has fulfilled me in ways I could never have imagined when I started out a few decades ago. 

I’m thankful for the people who helped me get my business off the ground and keep it growing. 

To Iain, who gave me the opportunity to write my first piece of collateral while I was a young account executive at an ad agency. My copy was approved on the first pass and emboldened me to shift my career from account exec to copywriter.

To Susan, who responded to my first direct marketing letter and hired me to write a campaign to promote the winery she worked for. I thank her for continuing to retain me as she moved to a large PR firm and then on to a biotech company, giving me challenging projects that broadened my portfolio and my credentials.

To Pat, who became my graphic design partner and showed me the joys of working in partnership with another creative freelancer. The work we did together is still among the best in my portfolio, as she put beauty and order to words on the page. 

To Linda, who was my best cheerleader when I started out and became my writing partner and co-publisher of a magazine we founded and ran for five years. 

To Dan, who assigned me articles to write for Sunset Magazine and then referred me to their book division, where I had the chance to write nine books over the next seven years.

To Stewart, who helped me develop expertise in healthcare marketing and fine tune my content strategy, web writing and SEO skills after a career spent in print.

And to all my clients who have put their trust in me over the years and made it a joy to start work every day. The collaboration is every bit as edifying as the work itself. 

I’m thankful for the ongoing education my freelance business provides.

I can’t imagine another career that would let me jump between industries, functions and types of writing—all in the same month. Freelancing means I can choose to be a generalist or an expert in the area that fascinates me most. Since every freelance project is new, I get to meet and interview a wide variety of experts and continuously learn new things. There is no chance to get bored or become stale in the work I do, as long as I keep reaching for new challenges.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to maintain my relevance.

You can’t remain in business as an independent contractor unless you offer the skills clients are looking for today. As technology changes the way we communicate, I need to keep pace and know as much or more than the generations coming up behind me. It feels great to stay relevant and not be afraid that progress will run me over.

I’m thankful that I can work from anywhere with an internet connection.

While I spend most of my workday in front of a computer, it doesn’t matter where that computer is located. It can be in my home office, in a coffee shop, in a park or even—as it was for six months recently and will be again—in a rental home in Mexico. 

I’m thankful for the work-life balance I have created.

I am grateful for the flexibility I had to make my three children my priority without interrupting my career. There were months and even years when I sacrificed income and advancement to give my kids more attention. But I never had to choose between all or nothing. I was in command of the hours I worked and the jobs I took on. I could design my workdays around my children’s schedules. And today, I can still take off time to help with my grandchildren’s care. 

I’m thankful for the ability to support myself doing the work I love.

I wasn’t sure I could make a living writing when I began freelancing. I started my business out of frustration, believing I wouldn’t be taken seriously as a woman at a time when I knew no other female copywriters. I imagined I’d give myself a year and see what happened. I’ve never looked back.  

And finally, I’m thankful for the people who continue to have my back.

Freelancing isn’t for everyone. At times, it can feel insecure and frightening. I had the benefit of growing up with a father who ran his own architecture firm. I often watched the boats coming into the San Francisco Bay, wondering if one might be my father’s ship—the one my mother said we were waiting to come in. We never went without a meal, but I did get used to instability tempered by the promise of much better things to come. I am grateful that my mother believed in me too, and always had my back. 

Today, I rely on the encouragement of friends and family, a great marketing coach, and a group of fellow freelancers who are generous with their advice and support. Even though I work alone, I never feel alone. I have so much to be thankful for that no matter what my bank account looks like on any given day, I feel very rich. And with a new challenge from every new project, I’m excited for the year ahead.

Photo by Jakob Owens

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