This aggrieved response, in Salon, to the NYT magazine piece about Portland — why people move there, what they do then, and how the city is changing — makes some sobering points about how our culture views freelance work and the money that results.
In 2013 my husband had a salaried position and did some freelance work — freelance work he has been doing for the past 10 years — on the side. In 2014 he quit the salaried job to pursue freelance full-time and is making roughly three times what he used to. Had he left that salaried job for another, we’d have no problem. We’d produce his last two pay stubs and even though it was a new job his work history would demonstrate some indelible quality about him and we’d have our mortgage.
But it doesn’t work like that for freelancers. The invoices we send out every month, the checks we deposit, the estimated taxes we’ve already paid — none of it really means anything until we file our tax return. Freelance money, we’ve come to realize, isn’t like other money. At a time in our economy when a salaried worker can lose his job without warning and then be unemployed for months, if not years, he’s still seen as a safer bet than a freelancer. Our money doesn’t count, and neither do our jobs. This is cultural, I understand, and there are countless ways — from healthcare to the tax code — that our culture is set up to favor salaried workers.
No one who reads this site could mistake freelancers for slackers. But it’s true that when Ben and I both jumped off the freelance cliff, we didn’t consider the long-term ramifications in terms of things like mortgages. (Move somewhere significantly cheaper and buy in cash?) Anyone have experience convincing banks to lend to you as something other than a FT employee?