No food, no home and no job; when work is scarce, that's my biggest fear. This forces me to appreciate what I have now; and makes me more compassionate towards those who are daily facing the challenge of life without the basics. So far I have a home and enough to eat. I have been a freelance journalist for over 15 years: and have enjoyed, as well as survived, the ups and downs, what I call 'the snakes and ladders' life. My faith has been very much part of this journey.
Living with uncertainty is never easy; most of us, including me, try to find security in other things. Good relationships, satisfying work, a nourishing community and family support are to be cherished. However, for me, when these become a substitute for 'handing my life' over to God, on a daily basis, my fear increases as my trust diminishes.
I have wept over this. When the bank balance is in the red, and the month ahead is job free my desperation can be overwhelming.
I don't believe in a conjurer God, who waves a magic wand and makes everything alright. I do believe in a loving being who meets our needs even when life is rough. I am now working part-time at Tearfund as a Senior Press Officer; a job I applied for through this website. I love it. The work is stimulating: the people generous and loving and I am learning new skills. The job is gratefully received, and has given me great stability as well as the freedom to pursue other avenues. Although it pays my basic bills; I still need extra work to meet all my living expenses. So far, so good. As I live on my own: the buck stops with me. Many of us are in the same situation; but it can be frightening just the same. The cat is supportive but she brings in mice, not money.
My loving church community: Moot, based in central London, is full of freelances making their way through the snakes and ladders minefield. We celebrate the joys of freelance life, and support each other when things become desperate, financially as well as emotionally. In many ways, talking about money is the last taboo. It seems easier to talk about sex. Admitting that 'you don't have enough', in our culture, can be seen as an admission of failure and can lead to great shame. In a recession, many of us are experiencing financial hardship: facing that fear head on, with another human being is another God given resource. Sharing my vulnerabilities with another has often led to deeper and more nourishing friendships.
I do not have all the answers when it comes to surviving freelance life but I do have the perspective of experience. I have survived so far; even though it is has often been a painful juggling act. I have begged God for more money, and managed on less. I have been satisfied with what I have, and got more than enough; there seems to be no logic to this uncertain life but there is love and support available. Asking for this from others is a humbling and sometimes painful act, but it beats isolating and suffering in silence.
I get down on my knees each morning; to admit that although I may have choices, I am powerless over the bigger picture. I ask God to help me to handover the day: not to 'make it ok', but to give me the strength to face whatever comes or doesn't come my way. I am learning to have gratitude for what I have been given; sometimes I write a list of thanks if I can be bothered. If I cannot face doing this: I simply breathe and experience the painful feelings rather than attempt to medicate them with busyness, booze, food, fags (amazingly I have given up smoking) and shopping on my credit card.
I ask for help and support and when I feel I am not coping, I get down on my knees as an act of humility, and I try to tell the truth about my circumstances rather than hide in shame for fear of rejection. Networking, keeping up to speed on work opportunities via the net and old media and creating opportunites are all practical ways to plough through the snakes and ladders board. However, I wanted this piece to focus on the foundations that underpin the activity; as well as communicate something of how my ongoing relationship with God has become an essential part of this process. I can only speak from my own experience of this uncertain yet often stimulating life. You will, no doubt, have much more to add. If you are facing similar challenges; my hope I that these words can help and support you in your own freelance journey.
Clare Catford is a freelance journalist and also a Senior Press Officer for Tearfund – a leading Christian development and relief charity.