A few years ago, I left a job, a relationship, and an apartment all in the same month. One, the job, came to a natural ending; I set off to begin my full-time freelance life. The other two endings were far more abrupt, and both were related to gender-based violence.
I’m a food, sex, and mental health writer. I cover how inequality affects our ability to meet our emotional, physical, and cultural needs, and I offer readers practical advice on thriving in an unjust world. Yet in 2019, I found myself sorely in need of my own byline’s wisdom: nursing a broken heart while frantically trying to pitch my way to a new apartment.
The experience illuminated the instability of freelancing as a field — many of us are just one dropped client or project away from housing insecurity. But it also revealed that this instability affects us differently based on our identities. Female and transgender freelancers, especially women and trans folks of color, make less money than our male colleagues. Due to racist discrimination, freelancers of color of all genders receive fewer opportunities for advancement than their white peers.
Those of us at the intersections of multiple oppressions are particularly vulnerable to gender-based violence. Experiencing sexual and intimate partner violence makes us more likely to experience homelessness, mental illness, and unemployment. At the same time, financial instability makes us more vulnerable to victimization. As freelancers, we may also be more likely to rely on partners for health insurance or material support during dry spells, making it harder to leave a harmful relationship. That’s part of why universal healthcare and housing are so important.
When I began my own journey as an independent journalist, I realized that the connection between freelancing and intimate relationships could be more positive. I got my sea legs as a freelancer the same time that I was learning to date in a healthier way. The skills I needed for each were uncannily similar. I learned to ask for what I need, to value myself, and to set boundaries. When I started declining gigs that didn’t match my goals, I found myself better able to say no to dates who didn’t respect me. When I started clearly asking for what I wanted in relationships, I found it easier to set work rates that honored my time.
As it turns out, both freelancing and dating are an act of placing a bet on ourselves— a vote of confidence that we’ve got our own backs, and that the world is abundant enough for us all to thrive in. I want to share some of those core skills, as well as how they can help us become more confident in our work and intimate relationships.