I have to admit, while 2009 sucked for a lot of people, it was great for me. On a professional level I've really taken off. A couple years ago, when folks started speaking of the dreaded "recession" in the US I told people that it'll be a time for freelancers to really shine.
Layoffs will dump lots of good talented people in to the "freelance pool" but being used to simply drawing/ painting daily and taking coffee breaks and getting paid days off...they have to do it all: self-marketing, hunting for gigs, and working ridiculous hours with no net to speak of. Most folks are NOT cut out to be a FT freelancer or simply cannot do it due to circumstances beyond their control.
Honestly, the first couple years of being a FT freelancer is the hardest because "art" is such a small percentage of the day. You'll bust your hump to eeek out minimum wage and still live a subsidized life via food stamps or just living extremely lean (no cable tv, no outings, no dinners out, lots of ramen noodles and the bare necessities). After a year or two you should have something of a reputation built and a regular lineup of people to work for (or to avoid). I got lucky: I'm married so I get to pay half the bills instead of all of them. Still...I had (have) to pony up the cash in order to survive.
It's easy to give it all up. Serious. Just go back to being an IT nerd or Customer Service Technician, or whatever you did before your nice in-house art gig. Live off unemployment for a while.
Surviving a "recession" as a freelancer is hard. I said up front that the guys who are already FT freelancers will have a HUGE edge in surviving this strongly because they are already doing it, used to the suckitude, the lean times and the hustle of day-to-day work where the guys coming from in-house gigs have to (re)learn to survive by doing more for less and hustling for it. Companies don't have the money to throw around like before so they want more for less and won't put up with an artistic diva. That's where the Professional Full-Time Freelancer comes in and really shines.
Well...it worked. 2009 was a stellar year for me. I've been booked up approximately 4-5 months in advance since January or February. I'm not rich by any stretch of the imagination, but I haven't needed to look for work in almost a year now. People know me, my work and that I do a good job and that I'm dependable. I like to think that my overall skill-level has improved as well.
I did end up skipping out on several conventions which I regret now.
I expanded my footprint to include reviews in a more serious fashion. Previously I did a review of a book or game here and there, but now I'm signed on with several publishers to review material and it's been fun. Granted, I only have so much time, so I'm doing as much time juggling now as before.
On the fun side I've enjoyed my Xbox 360 greatly. I pretty much use it for all my video and music needs. No need for cable TV now. Netflix via Xbox Live handles that nicely. Played some great games this year on the x360: Fallout 3, Bioshock, Fable 2, Call of Duty: World at War, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Dragon Age: Origins.
Played tabletop games too. Played some D&D 4th Ed. Several times in fact. Really didn't blow my skirt up. Ran a Dark Heresy game and a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay campaign. Both were short but fun. Played some D&D 3.5 Ed which was more to my liking and some Vampire: The Requiem which was fun. Played Warhammer Fantasy once and 40k three or four times. Sad really, I like this edition of 40k. Apocalypse especially suits me (go fast, move figs, roll dice and have fun doing really epic stuff rather than the ultra competitive sort of play many of the locals seem to prefer).
I've reconnected with several friends from the long-lost past as well as made some new ones. Overall I'm REALLY looking forward to 2010. Conventions, seeing my peeps from far away and sharing a drink and a "no shit there I was" story or three with them.
Well...that's it for now. I've got work to get done!