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How freelancing let me stop worrying whether jobs would accept me as a queer woman
Writer Sarah Prager shares how queering her career has helped her find stability and make twice the income she earned working for someone else.
Maybe it’s the queer woman in me, but I felt trapped in the 9-to-5. I worked in pretty liberal nonprofit circles, but my pay was too low, the benefits weren’t really benefiting me, and the co-workers, bosses and policies weren’t always inclusive.
Now I’ve queered my professional life and make twice as much money as I did with a salary.
As two cisgender women, my former wife and I knew we’d always be making less than a heteronormative couple — a woman stands to make as much as $1 million less over her career if she doesn’t negotiate her salary, let alone if she’s offered less than a man would earn. We thought salaried jobs with benefits would at least provide us with some security. We invested in our financial future by sending her to medical school for a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. When we arrived in 2012, we found out I couldn’t be on her student health insurance like other spouses of students because that state didn’t recognize our marriage at the time, a financial blow.
As the sole financial provider through her years in school, I started freelancing and exploring entrepreneurship to make extra income on the side of a 32-hour-per-week traditional job with no benefits. I was able to follow my passions, including LGBTQ-specific ones. Through layoffs and toxic bosses in part-time salaried jobs, I started to see that the “security” of traditional work wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
When my then-wife and I had our babies, neither of us received any paid leave. Those benefits that accompanied those traditional jobs weren’t giving us much. When the COVID pandemic hit and the daycares closed, she stayed at home with the kids full-time while I took the leap to see whether I could make full-time freelance writing into a career.
It turns out I can.
I pitch articles I want to write about LGBTQ issues I want to cover. I only pitch them to LGBTQ-friendly editors at LGBTQ-friendly publications. If I have a negative experience, I don’t write for them again. I’m never tied down with a long full-time contract, and every time I work with a new client, I have a chance to negotiate my pay and choose not to accept it if it isn’t enough.
I’m challenged as a woman to be asking for higher rates multiple times a week and have practiced building that skill in a way many women on a traditional career track only get to do once every few years. Being in a now-comfortable environment where I can easily walk away from an offer and know I’m safe as a queer woman empowers me to ask for higher pay, and therefore secure it, more often.
Being driven to support my family and passionate about my work has led me to pitch and write so much that I earn twice as much money in a year as I did in my salaried jobs.
Now that my wife and I have divorced, as two single moms, we each need to support our kids while maintaining our own households and expenses. The flexibility of this career lets me take care of the kids after school on my own. I can write, edit and pitch at any time of the day, on any day of the week, from anywhere. I have no commuting or wardrobe expenses and no boss to ask for a day off when the kids are sick or have a snow day.
I feel fulfilled making a living writing about topics I care about and powerful being a queer woman who’s aggressive in going after the financial present and future she wants. I’ve published four books and more than 300 articles and supplemented my writing income with more than 200 speaking engagements, all on LGBTQ topics I’m passionate about sharing with others. To be able to financially provide for myself and my children while doing this is a dream I wish for every person.
Image by Sarah Chai via Pexels