I have a really embarrassing confession to make. Part of why I decided to go freelance last September has a lot to do with the reality show Keeping Up With The Kardashians.
You see, before going solo, I was working from nine to seven (sometimes longer) at a small digital agency. At the end of a stressful workday, I would come home and have the need to watch something mindless to dull the pain. I started casually watching the Kim K. Klan for escapism—but then their whole lifestyle infected my brain. I couldn’t stop thinking about how amazing their lives seemed. Beautiful, young entrepreneurs meeting people for lunch, “writing” books, getting their hair done, and fighting about Scott Disick’s commitment issues. Aside from constantly being followed by cameras, these women were completely and totally free. (And gorgeous.) They never needed to watch TV to forget about their shitty lives!
“It would be so nice to see the afternoon sun,” I thought to myself in a wine-fueled daze.
I had forgotten what going out to lunch felt like, what dropping off dry cleaning was, and had developed knots in my shoulders that were so big I was starting to get scared that they were visible humps.
“Imagine if I could just, go for a walk—or, take a meeting that was…beneficial, to me,” I said to my boyfriend one evening, while I was laying face down on our living room floor.
I’m not much of a complainer, but I was aware that I was too young to be this miserable, and also wise enough to know that in life, there is always more misery to come. But the immediate shit needed to be fixed before I started worrying about the future.
We talked it out, and decided that if I could line up freelance clients who paid enough to cover my share of the rent and some extras, I could take the risk and quit my job. It would be to the benefit of both of us, really, as I don’t think he could take any more of my grumbling, and like any guy, was clearly into the idea of a happier, more productive girlfriend (those are the sexiest ones, in case you are wondering).
I spent the next month or so applying to all the freelance gigs I found. My skill set—writing, social media, marketing—is hot right now, and something every business needs a little of, so I wasn’t too worried about finding clients. In late August, I was offered the dream: working from home for a startup that paid pretty much the hourly equivalent of my agency salary. I gave my two weeks notice, bought an iMac and a desk from Ikea, and started plotting my glamorous freelance life.
I figured I would work 6-8 hours intermittently throughout the day. Maybe I would become a yoga junkie, or learn how to bake, or join a writing group. My days would be more L.A. than New York, with mid-afternoon coffee dates, and 9 a.m. appointments at the hair salon. I would be polished, lose weight, and buy all the best Christmas presents that year.
Less than two weeks into it, I realized what a fool I had been. I enjoyed the freedom, the quiet solitude, and not having anyone yell at me—but I became lonely. (So lonely.) My boyfriend would come home from work around 7 p.m., and I would need so much more from him than I did before. Sometimes he was the only person I would see all day, and I would be showering and picking out outfits and making dinner solely for his existence. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I mean, a lot of stay-at-home women do that every day, but for me it just felt… ill fated—and not at all Kardashian.
There were other things that made me feel less than glamorous. I wasn’t really taking many meetings. My major client was having me do work that wasn’t in the original job description. I stopped caring about my appearance. I ate weird leftovers more than I should have. The vast difference in what I thought was going to happen versus the way things actually were brought me to a conclusion that probably seems painfully obvious to most people: You can’t be glamorous unless you actually are. But it’s possible that you can be happy if you work at it.
I stopped chasing this delusion that being my own boss was going to make me into a well-dressed lady with a big (butt) bank account, and instead decided to focus on developing interests and opportunities that were actually within my skill set, and would benefit my career in the long term. I started a gardening blog about the pathetic plants on my balcony. I began writing for websites and eventually acquired real writing clients. I ran my first 5K. I picked one side hustle at a time, and really focused on it—like it was a request for proposal I needed to respond to, and I made it work for me. This kept me distracted, which ultimately made me less miserable to be around. It was a small success, but hey, those count too.
The only way I am even remotely like the Kardashians is that I feel like I am always working (give those ladies credit, it’s not easy being that pretty 24/7). I need to find opportunities, inspiration, and connections everywhere. I don’t have a team of people to make me look good, and its stressful as fuck to be going at it on my own career-wise, but it’s just the way things are now. It takes two things to be a successful freelancer: commitment, and fear of poverty, and unless you have both of those, you will be one of those people who says they are “working” when they are actually watching TV. And I hate those people. They are the most unglamorous people of all.
(See: Rob Kardashian, the underdog of the family.)
Caitlin Abber is a writer and marketing consultant who lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. She works from home, so she tweets like the world is her desk-mate at @everydaycaitlin. You can also follow her blog here.