Since 1999 I have been making a comfortable living as an independent social researcher. 'Independent social researcher' means I am self-employed, researching social issues such as parenting, poverty and drug misuse, with clients who are mostly local authorities and charities. 'Comfortable living' means the approximate equivalent of a gross salary of £25-£40K, varying from year to year with the ups and downs of the business, but overall enough to make me feel rich.
However, since the spending review, my work has dried up. In the last six months, I've had one contract worth £1,250. Which doesn't even cover my business expenses for the period (telecomms, stationery, heat/light, insurance etc) let alone providing any money for me to live on.
Luckily I have a supportive partner; also self-employed, but in a different sector with steady work. We decided a while ago that I should start applying for part-time temporary jobs - my PhD means I can apply for work in academia, and my social work and voluntary sector background means I can also apply for work as a practitioner. So I've been doing loads of job applications, as well as doing tenders for research.
I haven't applied for jobs for 14 years, and it's a dark art. I'm getting great support from my brother-in-law, who is development director of a charity, and from a friend who is an academic. But each application, and each tender, takes me days to write.
I am having to use all my mental energy trying to generate some income, and I simply don't have the headspace for my own writing. I don't know when I will. I'm surprisingly unbothered by this. I suspect a break will do more good than harm. I'm not giving up or anything - but I've been working so hard on my writing for so long, yet making so little tangible progress, that it's a relief to have a reason to put it down for a while.
I'm still getting nice rejections, but now for jobs and tenders. The job market is quite alarming. I am applying for jobs where I can demonstrate ample experience against every point on the person specification, but I'm not even getting interviews. This seems to be because of the sheer numbers of people looking for work. For example, I applied for a part-time job with a national charity, and got a lovely letter today saying that while my experience was a good fit for their needs, they'd had over 200 applications and found someone whose experience was a perfect fit. I recently met a woman from another well-known charity who told me that they're getting 180 applications for every admin job, including people with PhDs.
But I have to keep trying. So that's what I'm doing. It's why I'm not around much online. Don't waste time feeling sorry for me, though. I'm unsettled, but I'm not depressed (any more - I was for a bit). I do realise that I'm so much luckier than most people: I don't have to worry about where my next meal is coming from, or how to pay the heating bill. I don't have an aspirational lifestyle, and I know how to economise - my family never had any money when I was growing up, and I was unemployed for two years in the mid-1990s, so I have lots of nice lentil recipes.
And: this too shall pass.