“As brutal as it sounds, we’re all a long-time dead. Living a creative freelance life means unplugging from certainty in order to chart an independent path. Autonomy is the reward. Financial insecurity is the risk.”
I knew two years into my employment as a cadet journalist in newspapers that I would have to pave my own way. I wasn’t interested in so much of what I was required to work on and found the culture of newspapers misogynistic and limiting. I made the move to working as a freelance journalist at age 21. It was a fantastic move. I directed my own content, formed my own relationships and drove my own work hours. But even as a freelance journalist I was still forced to perform within a set of guidelines and established patterns of thought.
By age 35 my career as a freelance journalist was losing its sheen. At that point I was making around $80,000 AUS per year working three days a week. A pretty great gig. And yet my satisfaction at the work I was doing was dwindling.
Writing my first book, a memoir titled Spirits in A Spice Jar and published in May 2018 by Westland Books, was a step outside the frame. I spent two years working behind a counter at a local delicatessen in the small West Australian town in which I live to support my writing. I have two children and a husband who, at that time, was on a year sabbatical. Money was VERY tight. Securing a publishing contract for my book didn’t change that.
Cue revelation number two- career freedom matters, but so does financial security.
What the book did bring, however, was an awareness that as much as I believed my writing was my talent, for others it was my relationship with spice. That is what my audience responded to. They loved the way I felt spice. The way I communicate its message. How I articulate the relationships aromatics have with us and with each other.
After 20 years working for myself in one way or another, I found that the occupation that I never knew existed was the one that I was destined to have – that of Spice Mistress.
I now teach classes, work with industry and chefs, run events, produce my own radio show, sell my own spice range and increasingly drive toward a growing media and public profile that I never knew was even a possibility as a 21-year-old freelance journalist.
Stepping into an independent working arena doesn’t just mean defying the treadmill of corporate structures and the working week. It mostly means running onto a field where the rules of play constantly shift and the aim of the game is self-development, change and challenge. Being a freelancer as a career means being open to change is it relates to who we are, what we do and how we do things. Setting up a self-driven business and then sticking to that framework no matter what is just pledging allegiance to an alternate frame of convention.
I’m back working a few days a week in a restaurant, as well as taking on freelance writing gigs, in order to finance for me what is a growing commercial concern – my Spice Mistress self. My experience now tells me that sticking to the idea of self-propulsion for the sake of proclaiming professional independence when it’s not financially viable is just another form of dogma.
I live the life of a Spice Mistress and understand that the discipline required to devote myself to my own self-development is the only real business that matters in life. Taking on additional employment allows me space to have my Spice Mistress business grow organically. It also serves my family’s financial needs – a point of incredible importance.
Merging my need for creative expression, personal growth and security involves constant re-evaluation. The reward is not so much a professional life lived on my own terms, as it is the opportunity to connect everyday with who I am and where I stand in reference to the world around me. A freelance work life isn’t worth anything if it’s just another set idea or structure to plug in to.