10 things I've learned about being a Freelancer.
Hello one and all to this wonderful instalment of my highly sporadic blogs! It's been a while but a friend recently suggested writing some words about this and never one to shut up here we are! See it's been just over a year of being freelance and I wish I would have learnt some of these things before taking the freelance plunge. You see I certainly didn't set out to be a freelancer, and when other people suggested this possibility I would scoff and say 'darling, never! I'm the type of creature who needs stability and to flex my social muscles within the workplace' and then I would take a long drag from my cigarette holder and blow a long steady stream of smoke my heels clicking as I walked away from you laughing. That of course never really happened but I didn't like the idea of being freelance. But life never really goes to plan so here I am. Perhaps one day I shall write a blog about the long and winding road that lead me to be a freelancer (probably in 5 years' time). But until then here are 10 things I've learnt about being freelance. 5 are things I still need to learn and 5 are things that have gone well. Cos you know glass half full! And if you are thinking of going freelance too, maybe this will help!
Love this New Yorker Cartoon
1.BAD feeling inadequate.
Call it an artistic struggle, impostor syndrome or whatever you like. I've often found myself looking at other people's work and not sounding too dramatic but want to shove my pencil up my nose and punt my laptop out the window. Okay, that is maybe too dramatic but you get the picture. People are good and I could show you a list of illustrators whose work would make you weep with joy and hear a choir of angels for how pure and beautiful their work is. So I'm trying to come to terms with being in competition with these amazing people. From what I've worked out dealing with this is a game of two halves. Firstly, all these people worked hard, really hard. They may have some natural talent but most of their ability has come through hard graft, this is something I can do. I never went to university and I've never actually taken a course specifically in illustration. So, like swiss cheese, there are some holes. This year I really want to take the initiative and plug these up, I can even do it ritually and eat Swiss cheese at the same time! Secondly, yes I am still finding my style but my work is now more developed than ever. Progress is happening and sometimes you have to appreciate that yeah you did kill that brief. Put a pair of shades in and eat that Swiss cheese baby.
2. GOOD- I'm more motivated than I realised.
People say working from home means they won't actually work at all. And don't get me wrong, I think there are chronic procrastinators from whom being their own boss is never going to work. But I've really found that if you want to make things work you do just make it work (just like my uncle Tim Gunn told me)(he's not really my uncle but I wish he was). I've mostly managed to stick to a 9-5 and I'm mostly able to just start. Every now and again I'll have a little wobble and in that case, I've found setting myself a goal in my diary helps. I don't want to over-simplify it as people can need really specific techniques to get into the right working mindset and that's fine. Experiment and get to work!
Oh Tim, for you I'd try to do anything
3. BAD Move Kath get out ya chair. Aka the freelance life is a still life.
One of the worst things I've found is that working from home means you miss out on a lot of exercise. Seen as some days I equate chocolate to some use crack cocaine this is somewhat problematic. And while my motivation for work is good there are days my motivation to exercise is like my love for people who like to walk around with their hands on their crotch...which is none existent. I really haven't cracked this yet and I'm open to suggestions. I don't really have the money for a gym membership but I'm going to try and find a little exercise class after the one I loved ended. I've also got a pedometer on my phone but I struggle to get anywhere near the 10000 steps (unless I'm on holiday in which case I walk like a beast!). Help is welcome, that or threats to keep me exercising. Either or.
4. GOOD Podcast, music and audiobooks oh my!
I think this one is specifically for anyone in design. Writing any sort of content is hard as a level of quiet is involved. But if your drawing you can watch any old shit! I've listened to countless podcasts and audiobooks and worked just as hard. I know it's hard to believe but it relaxes me and gives my work pace. It influences me and stops any creative panic or boredom. Don't get me wrong I don't do it all the time, the start of projects in particular needs a bit of silence to get going. But once I start I can relax and get into it. A boss would be ragging on me and I'd feel guilty but now my boss thinks it's bloody badass cos it's me mutha fuckers! (also you can see some picks of the best podcasts in a previous blog, go check it out after this!)
5. BAD Money boo.
The nitty gritty hey! Well, what can I say? It's hard. Full disclosure, at the minute for doing it for 1 year I don't make enough to live all the time. Sometimes I make more than I need and sometimes I make a lot less. I and my partner currently live with my parents so we can save for a deposit for a house and most months I can top these savings up. It's not ideal and it can be really stressful. How do I deal with it? A few things help, one is my mentor with The Prince's trust. He makes me really accountable for the money I make each month and encourages me when it's low and helps me think about how I can be proactive to get a better cash flow for the future. I also have a 'right to buy' account which gives me good interest and eventually money towards a mortgage. It's a small thing but every month I pay into it I'm encouraged that I'm on the right track. A good moan helps too and sometimes a bit of chocolate though see number 3 for why this isn't exactly great.
6. GOOD Money yay!
Having said all that, I do make more than when I was working part-time and trying to do my illustration part-time. I think that says something about theirs only so thin you can spread yourself before you become ineffective. I'm really proud of every pound I've made and ready to aim for more.
7.BAD Social media works how?
So one of the big killers of being freelance is the number of other things you need to do. You're not just a writer/illustrator/tutor whatever you do. You're an accountant, you're in marketing, you're an office manager, a receptionist and a PA ('someone is getting my morning cup of tea or I...oh I'm the PA...well let me put the kettle on'). The hardest of which I have found to be marketing. I'm really ineffective when using social media only finding some traction now and again on Instagram but with posts that I've planned and thought out for a long time only have a small impact. And Twitter is like muttering quietly to myself in a bathroom, goes nowhere! So I don't know what the trick is here. I need to probably post more often but I struggle to find the time. Again it's something to ponder and any suggestions welcome.
8. GOOD Flexibility
Yes working from home gives you great flexibility. It's true. Most days I'll do a normal 9-5 and take most of the weekend off but there are times when I'll shuffle the week round. This has come in useful the past year as both my and my partner's family has had more struggles than normal which meant we were able to offer more support. But beyond this, it also has really selfishly good points. If I have a bad night I'm not stressing about having to get up and out, I can sleep in for an extra 15 minutes and add it to an evening stint. If I get tired at 3 pm instead of forcing myself to work at a half pace I'll have a break and do some hours after me tea. It's great, I work harder than ever but have a much less stressful schedule, most of the time anyway. I do honestly most workplaces would be better off adapting a more flexible approach. I know it's not always possible or suits a place but I do think it would allow people to get less burnt out.
9. BAD Office laughs.
One thing i do sometimes miss is the people I've worked with. I've had a lot of good fortune in that I've worked with some lovely people over the years. I've had a lot of fun times, support and enjoyable jobs. Things that although were never part of my 'grand plan' were good pit stops along the way. I credit a lot of my success to these jobs that, although had no progression, were still useful. I've even met wonderful customers that I'll never forget as strange as that sounds. One of the last I served in one job clearly didn't have a lot but insisted I got a tip even though I said I didn't need it. I got home and cried at the kindness and it will always stick with me! Little acts go a long way.
10. GOOD Office 'bants'
Having said that. O sweet Lord am I glad to not have to go back sometimes! Like everyone I've had terrible managers, creepy colleagues and appallingly behaved members of the public. Don't misunderstand me. If I needed to I'd go back into a service job in a heartbeat. The nice customers far out way the bad and I do love just helping people sometimes even if it's for frivolous things. But sometimes I breathe a sigh of relief that I don't have to deal with some of that and get to say no to people because my instinct says so.
So to sum up freelancing is hard. It's no easy fix to problematic work situations. It is something that certainly won't work for everyone and it requires a lot of thought and preparation. I certainly haven't mastered it, but I feel very hopeful about the future and ready to do more!