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By: Mesila

I work as a freelance writer for a popular publication. I feel that I am well-suited for this work and perform quite well at it. It also has the great advantage of allowing me to work from home.

Freelance work has several drawbacks, however. I do not receive a steady income; it depends on how much I work. Sometimes there are breaks between assignments, leaving a dent in my monthly salary. In Tishrei or Nisan, when a significant chunk of the month is Yom Yov, there is a marked decline in my salary.

I’ve come to terms with this “roller coaster,” but I am curious whether Mesila would encourage me to look for a different job with a steady income, even though it would probably pay considerably less per hour.

Like every job, yours has advantages and disadvantages. You have a job you enjoy and are good at and that offers you the luxury of working at home. However, it does not provide a steady income, which can be very unsettling.

From the time of Adam Harishon, parnassah was meant to be difficult, and the fact that you experience difficulties does not mean you are doing anything wrong. In fact, the Chovos Halevavos says that if someone works in an industry that experiences a downturn, he should continue to work in that industry.

When people encounter work-related challenges, their response is often to seek new employment rather than look for ways to improve their current situation, which is where the solution usually lies. In your case, the solution might be quite simple. Instead of giving up your current job, you might try looking for additional freelance work to supplement your income, or better yet, a steady part-time job to augment your freelance work. This would give you the advantages both of fixed employment — stable income and employee benefits — and of freelance work — better pay and greater flexibility.

The field of writing lends itself well to the possibility of working at multiple jobs simultaneously. As a freelancer, you can write articles and submit them to other publications, under a pseudonym if necessary. There is also a considerable need for translating services in the Jewish publication world today, which might be an option for you.

When there is a respite in assignments, don’t wait for your boss to send you assignments. Be proactive! There is so much that can be written! True stories, fiction, humor, stories for children, poetry, biographical articles, inspirational articles, how-to articles, even recipes. There are, baruch Hashem, quite a number of publications today that are eager, and sometimes desperate, for articles to fill their pages. 

In the writing field, rejections are inevitable. If an article of yours is rejected, do not be discouraged. Reread it, make improvements if necessary and send it elsewhere! Even if your article is never published, you will have benefited from the exercise of writing. It never hurts to improve your writing skills, and the best way to improve is by practicing.

In addition to submitting material to publications, do networking. Notify any writers and editors you know that you are available for writing assignments. Offer to send them samples of your work, and ask them to recommend you for jobs that they decide to pass up.

The adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” is particularly applicable to writers. For this reason, it is generally a good idea to write under your own name, rather than a pseudonym. This way, people in the writing world will start recognizing your name and your abilities.

Once you have won the recognition and respect of senior editors and high-profile writers, you are in an excellent position to receive any overflow work they might have. But you have to earn this recognition and respect: First, by making sure that every piece you write is something you can take pride in. Second, by having your writing appear in print consistently. Third, by capitalizing on every opportunity — and creating opportunities — to be in contact with successful writers and editors.

To ride out the Tishrei and Nisan dry spells, we recommend that you work with annual income figures rather monthly income figures. Estimate your income for the whole year — taking into account busy and slow seasons — and calculate the monthly average. Your spending should be commensurate with that monthly average.

This advice applies to people who perform any type of freelance work or have seasonal employment. It also applies to most businesses, because almost every business has busy seasons and slow seasons.

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