Happy National Freelancers’ Day! I hope that like me, you all awoke to a stack of presents and lovingly crafted banners brandishing messages of appreciation and gratitude, and that when you logged on to your Internet banking this morning everything was paid and up to date. No? No, me neither.
Luckily, when I signed up to this freelance lark just under a year ago, I was under no illusions about how tough a gig it can be – and to be honest, having one ‘National Day’ a year dedicated to the job does little to ease the daily grind (unless the presents and banners are coming later?). Still, there are some very good snippets of advice and knowledge filtering through on Twitter under the hashtag #freelanceday.
Given my fledging status in the biz, I am unable to offer any blinding wisdom on the topic. However, I can provide a crushingly honest account of my year to date, surmised with a few self-reflective one-liners and concluded with a positive nod toward future endeavours. A Zach Braff homage, if you will. Behold.
- I started freelancing in January. The same time I moved to London. I had a trace amount of contacts and no regular work of any kind. On paper, this was the stupidest thing I could have done, financially speaking, and in my first month I made £600. My rent is £600. You see the problem there. I am happy to report that 11 months later, I’m by no means rich, but I am getting by. Granted, I am unmarried and childless, but Jesus Christ, if I can somehow bumble my way through to financial solvency, it’s not an impossible task.
- The isolation can be crushing if, like me, you thrive on social interactions. I know a few people that genuinely enjoy working on their own and could happily do so without speaking to another human person for days on end, but alas, not I. I am talking to myself more than I ever have, and while I am not yet having conversations with make-believe colleagues, I will tell an empty room that I am going to make a cup of tea. I don’t think it cares.
- Every freelancer will tell you that procrastination is an issue. Some believe that procrastination consists of 15 minutes on BBC News at a non-scheduled time; others say that three hours spent mindlessly surfing 9GAG and Tumblr is just a ‘warm up’ exercise. Guess which category I… OMG check this out: http://9gag.com/gag/109669
- I rarely get dressed before midday. There. I said it. My biggest freelance shame. This is because I frequently make the mistake of checking my emails while I’m still in bed in the morning, and then naturally progress onto researching the daily articles I write for one of my clients, and then writing them, filing them, going back to my emails, and so on. My working day has a natural ebb and flow which renders my routine incomprehensible to many nine-to-fivers, but it works for me and doesn’t compromise my ability to do my job. PERK!
- My dependency on technology is frightening. My phone is permanently attached to my person, and if my laptop shows even the slightest hint of a 404 I will SHOUT THE HOUSE DOWN. Without these two lumps of metal and motherboards I am literally unable to do my job.
- I’m not a fan of the word ‘diversify’, mainly because it sounds like PR bollocks, or the name of a really questionable hip hop act that gets shipped into schools to ‘rap’ about bullying and other youth issues, but it’s how I get by. Under the umbrella term ‘journalism’ I do news and feature writing, subbing, editing, (paid) blogging and community management. For the latter, I look after forums and help to drive traffic to pages through Facebook and Twitter. Is that journalism? Personally, I don’t think it is, but it’s an integral part of the online content landscape and it’s an inevitability that journalists that aren’t on board will get left behind.
- The only real value I’ve found in attending networking events is meeting like-minded freelancers. They are easily identified as the slightly scruffy-looking folk necking the complimentary cocktails and fending off the hoards of PRs that dominate the guestlists of such occasions. At the last event I went to, I was cornered by a guy who did PR for an MRI machine company. ‘Would you like my card?’ he asked, after I told him that I predominantly worked an environmental beat. Eh?
- I am constantly worrying that I’m ‘not doing it right’. This is often compounded by the successes of my freelance allies: ‘They’ve got so much more work than me!’ ‘I’ll never get a byline in X!’ ‘They’re so successful!’ ‘Why don’t PRs offer me bloody skiing press trips?’ and so on. I’ve been doing this for nearly a year and I’ve filed my tax return and everything and still I find myself wondering when I’ll be a ‘real’ freelancer, Gepetto.
- Making a living this way is very fulfilling. I know a lot of people that shuffle in to an office every day, churn out the expected work, and shuffle home to a pay check that’s delivered regardless of the effort, love, blood, sweat or tears put into the tasks at hand. As a freelancer, I feel like I’ve really earned my money and each achievement I make resonates really strongly on a personal level. PRIDE, etc.
- I don’t have to sacrifice lunch hours and weekends to the malevolent retail and banking overlords.
- I am the boss of me. Truly, no price can be put on that.