Bike couriers in Toronto are trying to unionize. The gig economy, for all its flexibility and perks, isn’t wearing well on us. Financially, creatives freelancers without stable employment are left to foot the bill on a lot of costs that companies normally absorb. Health coverage. Time off. Sick pay. Professional development. It all comes down to our pockets. Even the digital nomad lifestyle is losing its lustre. Work from anywhere, sure, but you’ll always be working.
As a creative, it can feel like you have little control over a lot of this. Maybe bike couriers successfully unionize and other groups follow suit. Maybe employment law shifts to accommodate this drastic change in the workforce. Maybe we are the generation that flips the script on what qualifies as a necessity and this is what saves our world from environmental collapse. I’m a creative, not an economist, so my predictions are daydreams at best.
At the same time, while I feel the increasing financial strain of being a self-employed creative, I am trying to exercise the power that I do have access to. The power to choose how I show up for myself as my own boss. Because, for the first 10 years of my career, I was a really bad boss. Had I been in a more formal employment setup, I would have had more than enough reasons to file multiple lawsuits against myself.
Of course, I’m not in a more formal employment setup and so I’m left to tidy up the aftermath of everything from burnout to the financial mishaps that feel inevitable when working on a variable income. And after over a decade of accepting that this is just how things are, I am finally able to accept that regardless of how much money or how little money I have in my bank account, there’s never an excuse for being a bad boss.
As creatives, our work requires a lot of time and effort. And there are no guarantees that we will ever be compensated for that work financially. So, at the very least, we can make our process of creation something that feels good. Something that makes us well if not financially, then creatively, emotionally, and spiritually. Which is not to say that we don’t need to create more financial stability for ourselves, just that we don’t have to suffer unnecessarily along the way.
What’s more, as our own bosses, we need to plan for the future. We don’t have the benefit of working towards a clearly defined position and so we must chart our own progress. Which may very well change as our creative practices evolve but will give us some direction nonetheless. While this might be quite different than the ways that previous generations of creatives have made their work, it’s worth considering.
One of the reasons that I am not a coach who promises to help creatives make six figures is because financial wellbeing is only partially about how much money you make. It is also about how to be well in your relationship to money. It’s about thinking more holistically about your finances so that you get to create the work that matters to you without running yourself ragged. It’s about being a better creative by being a better boss to yourself.
So, how well do you treat yourself as your own boss?