I was jumping around at the gym last week when I heard a loud pop and felt like someone had dropped a kettlebell on the back of my leg. I turned around to find out who was so careless with their weights only to discover that there was no one there.
A doctor who happened to be in the class told me that the sound and sensation were most likely from my Achilles tearing.
I didn’t feel much pain, but I was struck by a rising panic. And what stands out to me a week and a half later as I lie here recovering from tendon-repair surgery is that the panic I felt revolved almost entirely around how I was going to parent my seven-year-old without a working leg.
Notably, I felt pretty much zero panic about how I would continue to earn my living and support my family. I honestly didn’t give a single thought to my livelihood in that crisis moment.
And that’s because I’m a freelance writer.
As a longtime, dedicated freelancer who runs a blog to help other women freelance, I frequently sing freelancing’s praises. There are so many great things about it, from the autonomy to the earning potential to the ability to control your own environment. For me and many others, freelancing has allowed us to construct the lifestyles we want by doing something we enjoy.
But what I hadn’t fully realized until this injury, however, is what a benefit freelancing is for those who aren’t able to make their living in a traditional workplace for various reasons.
Because I freelance, I scarcely missed a beat with my work. I did have to devote more time to appointments than usual, and I had to take a few days off after surgery to rest, but other than that I have just carried on with what I had been doing. The only difference is that now I am on my bed or couch instead of at my desk.
I thought about how impossible that would have been if I had been working a regular on-site 9-5 job. I can neither walk nor drive, and at the moment I can’t even sit comfortably for long without my leg elevated.
I thought about my last office job, where I commuted 20 minutes by car to work on the second floor of a building with no elevator. If this injury had happened back then, I would not have been able to drive to work or to easily get upstairs to my desk. If I had been able to get a ride and then hoist myself up the stairs, I would have been uncomfortable all day without my foot elevated, and it would have delayed healing.
I could have asked to work from home, but that workplace didn’t have a remote desktop system and didn’t really embrace remote work, making the process cumbersome. And additionally, in the exhausting early stages of healing from such an injury, it’s important to be able to take a nap whenever you need one, which doesn’t go well with 9-5 office hours.
If I had been working in an office, I probably would have taken all my sick leave and then applied for disability, which may have worked out okay for me, but would have needlessly deprived the workplace of a perfectly capable employee.
The demands of the traditional workplace — especially those that don’t embrace work-from-home arrangements or options — are often incompatible with employees’ intense physical and psychological needs.
I had heard women talk about this before; I had heard that for some, freelancing is the only viable employment option due to physical limitations, debilitating chronic conditions, or mental illness.
It’s not just the working-at-home part that’s essential for many of these people; it’s also the ability to do only as much work as they can handle, and to have that amount change from month to month and week to week as needed. It’s the ability to have complete autonomy in setting their own schedules to work around appointments, treatment days, difficult days, or other issues.
I had heard women say these things but I had never really internalized the truth of it until I myself became someone who needs to work from sofa HQ with my leg up on a pillow.
So put one more mark in the “why freelancing is the best” column, this one representing “come as you are.”