A Fight for Survival in the Straits of Finance


It feels like I’m running out of options. Something is going to have to happen soon if I’m going to survive this impending bank account ice age. I’m behind on my taxes for last year, and owe a substantial chunk of cash to the government. I’m also behind on my taxes for this year, with no idea how to make that money up. My credit cards are maxed out. My student loan debt is over $100k, but I can’t find a job that even has “benefits” like health insurance (which should be a right, not a benefit, but let’s not even get into that argument here), not to mention a pay rate that’s even close to what someone with my education and skill set should be getting per hour. I’m working well over 50 hours a week, and still sinking deeper into debt with every moment. My nerves are shot. I can’t sleep. I can’t seem to even catch a breath.

All I want is a job that pays what I was making seven years ago – $45k + health insurance and paid vacation. That shouldn’t be so hard for a woman with multiple master’s degrees and a solid – sterling, even – history of outstanding service to her employers. But no one is hiring, and those who are are offering ridiculous hourly wages because they know they can get away with it.

Recently, I started freelancing via a well-known website that posts opportunities for freelancers. So far, I’ve found one position at my desired pay rate. It’s a fair wage for the level of complexity the project entails. Since finding that position, I’ve applied for gig after gig, only to find that employers – even the ones who’re supposedly looking for “Advanced” employees and offer to pay “$$$” – end up interviewing freelancers who’re working for $2 or $3 dollars an hour. It’s daunting.

A few days ago, I applied for a freelance position with an agency that connects prospective employers with the freelancers who can best complete their jobs. The agency advertises that the employers will pay a set fee of $26 per hour for their freelancers’ work, and on the employee portal, freelancers are told that they’ll make between $11 and $15 per hour for their services. I applied, thinking that perhaps these rates were in some way negotiable. If only I could make at least $18 an hour, I thought, I’d try it during my off hours. I submitted the required paperwork, went through a second round of interviews, and then was offered a position…at $11 an hour, flat. No negotiation, no possibility for anything higher than $11. For those who’re interested, even the CEO of McDonald’s is in support of raising minimum wage to just over $10 (even though advocates are fighting for a $15 minimum wage, which makes sense given today’s rising costs). For someone with my education, anything less than $25/hour for a job that requires years of training and experience, not to mention natural creative aptitude and a pretty broad set of capabilities, is an insult. An insult I was actually willing to deal with, until they came back with the $11/hour thing.

It was disappointing, but I turned them down. They’re making at least $15 an hour for every freelancer they employ, which I guess is low compared to how much my agency is making on me per hour, but still. It’s so disheartening to see that freelancers everywhere are selling themselves and the rest of us short by accepting such subpar pay rates. This is exactly what’s happening in the worlds of professional photography and graphic design, where the market is flooded with desperate new graduates, the unemployed, and hobbyists who’re more than willing to churn out work for free.

So now what? I still have my day job, which is paying me too little and not affording me the kind of office environment I’d prefer to be in, but as they say, them’s the breaks. At least they’re paying me at all. I’m also freelancing with a few different clients, which brings in a bit of extra money each month, and I’ve been slowly but surely selling off every possession that’s worth anything. Next up: the television. Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that, because I really like having a TV around. You know, since I’m a fat, lazy American and all.

I have a job interview tomorrow for a part-time gig working as an property & events assistant for a really lovely little wedding/special event venue. It’s honestly a dream job kind of scenario, so let’s cross our fingers that it works out. It’s only 10 hours a week, and probably doesn’t pay much at all, but I love event coordination more than anything else I’ve ever done, so it’ll be a learning experience. Other than that, I heard that an old employer has a position open for a kind of curatorial assistant / event coordinator kind of thing (it’s one of those jobs that has an ever-shifting set of duties), which sounds nice, but they tend to pay very little and work you six days a week, so I’m not sure if that would suit me at all. And the other option is to go back to waiting tables.

Waiting tables.

Waiting tables.

Yeah, no matter how many times I type that, it’s still probably the most depressing thing I’ve ever written. But I’m broke and in massive debt, and if I’m ever going to climb out of this hole, I have to double my income. No better way to do that than working a 16-hour day. Argh.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. amy says:

    😦 just had a conversation last night about education being pushed onto us and, ‘you cant get a job/make.money without an education’…they said…leaving us with ridiculosus amounts of debt, no job/sucky job/job that has nothing to do with our years of efforts. To me…it is one of the biggest cons ever…

    1. compassandquill says:

      It totally is.

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