We Should Talk About How Freelancers Make a Living | See Girl Work

We Should Talk About How Freelancers Make a Living


A recap of #IMakeaLiving, a free monthly event created to spark conversations about how freelancers make a living and navigate the changing marketplace.

On Friday, July 21, I attended the I Make a Living event at FreshBooks HQ in Toronto.

#IMakeaLiving is a free monthly event hosted by FreshBooks that’s meant to spark conversations about how freelancers make a living and navigate the changing marketplace.

The panel of speakers included Jeremy Bailey, a self-proclaimed famous New Media Artist; Pay Chen, broadcast personality, Ben Zifkin, an entrepreneur and best selling author of ‘The Rise of the Craft Brand‘; Chris Hamoen, co-founder of Account HQ; Dawn Laing, Director of Communications and Marketing at Nuvango, Geleskins and NOTION; and Richard Thomas, former Co-Head of Strategic Foresight at Idea Couture and Kinetic Café.

I really enjoy attending these kinds of events where a panel of speakers share highlights of their career journey along with some the successes and failures they’ve encountered along the way.

The most effective, engaging and interesting speakers have a way of putting it all on the table, offering openness and vulnerability to the audience.

This event was much like that.

What Do You Do For a Living?

I enjoyed the diversity of their professional backgrounds. I would have never thought to ask a freelance New Media artist about his experience trying to earn a living. But it turns out, it’s a thing and Mr. Bailey actually came off incredibly endearing.

Dawn Laing’s story resonated with me the most. She started out her career wanting to be veteran, turned that into research studies and now is fully engrained in the startup life.

Her winding professional pathway reminded me of my own. When I was working in corporate marketing and thought about my educational background and all my interests, it just didn’t make sense. Looking back, I knew there was a disconnect, but I could never really put my finger on it.

Now, making my living as a freelance marketer and content writer, my educational background, interests and professional experience have all culminated into something that makes sense.

I studied television production, audio production and script writing. I took html and built my first website. I took photography and learned about visual content. Then I worked in marketing for over 10 years.

It’s been easier for me to package all that now and sell myself as a freelancer content marketer, than it was for me before when I was marketing myself as someone who wanted to sit in a suite and manage emails all day.

How Many of You Get Paid Every Two Weeks?

Not to glamourize being poor, but it’s fairly common to not have any disposable income while you’re building a career in the gig economy.

When the event moderator, Saul Colt, asked the panel which of them got paid every two weeks, it was interesting to see less than of than half of the group raise their hand.

For me, that mindset of getting paid every two weeks, is something I tried to hang onto for as long as I could.

It was incredibly naïve of me to think that, in order to be successful at this, it would have to look and act the same exact way as working for a company in a structured 9 to 5 setting.

But guess what? If you want to burn the shackles of your cubicle, you have to burn the whole building down.

It’s going to be nearly impossible to keep some processes intact — such as getting paid every two weeks — while abandoning the rest — like no more suite and tie, no more cubicle, no more pointless staff meetings, no more rigid work schedule.

Getting paid every weeks when you’re a freelancer is probably not going to happen. It took me a long time to figure this out and it was the last remaining bit of “corporate” thinking that I had to let go of.

It was reassuring to hear that the way I’ve been thinking now, is a lot saner than the way I was thinking only four months ago.

freshbooks event
I Make a Living Event hosted by FreshBooks
Can You Be Happy in Making a Living?

Freelancing is a lifestyle. I’ve blogged about it extensively.

I’ve had to learn how to hustle, how to pitch, how to quote and how to market and sell myself. I’ve had to learn how to pay credit cards with other credit cards and be okay with the fact that some months will be that tight.

But I’m happy to move from one day to the next. I get excited at new opportunities. I take walks to think, plot and plan—not to escape. I like this new journey because I feel like it’s actually a journey and not a death sentence.

Just burn the whole building down and don’t look back.


This event will be running through several North American cities this summer. Find an #IMakeaLiving event near you.



Alethea Robinson

Founder & Blogger-in-Chief, See Girl Work

Alethea Robinson is a freelance marketing & content writer who provides content strategy, blogging, and writing & editing services for creative agencies and small to medium-sized businesses. In addition to her freelance business, Alethea is also founder and blogger-in-chief at See Girl Work, an online community for creative, entrepreneurial-minded women. Before starting her blog and freelance business, Alethea worked in marketing and communications for over 15 years.

  • Thanks for sharing. I work in two different part-time freelance-type positions and I love the freedom it affords. I think it’s important to realize that with that flexibility, you have have to be flexible too. For one position I get paid every two weeks, for the other it’s monthly. Either way, I wouldn’t want to go back to a traditional role.

    • @BuiltforTeams:disqus Thanks for your comment. For me in the beginning, I was so naive. I thought I would have the exact same lifestyle with only a job change. Boy, was I wrong! It’s a whole lifestyle change. You’re right! You definitely have to know how to be flexible as a freelancer and accept change. It’s part of the journey for sure 🙂

  • ghada dada

    Being able to work as a freelance writer/ translator is the best thing that ever happened to me. I love being able to stay at home and work whenever I want. Also being a freelancer allowed me to enjoy my job.

    • @ghada_dada:disqus yes, I sure do love it more than being in a cubicle and staring out the window 🙂

  • Great Blog Post and very informative. Thank you so much for sharing. I am not freelancing yet. I still have my full-time job, however I am looking to freelance, write content, to get myself out there. Thanks for sharing this. It is a great article.

    • @Charbullard:disqus glad it was helpful. If I were starting all over again, I would have done the side-hustle longer to build up my portfolio more and network more. But I am still enjoying the process and I enjoy freelancing from home.


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