The OTHER Freedoms Of Freelancing
Yeah, freelancing SOUNDS fun, with the freedom and the variety and the being your own boss stuff. And it is. There are few pleasures like a 35-second commute and a fully stocked office kitchen where EVERYTHING has my name on it. My office politics are pretty tame, since it's just me and my collection of vintage Star Trek figures. And I always win every event at the office retreat. So on the surface, it's pretty cool. And everyone seems to think it's all fun -- or worse -- they think it's easy.
But what you don't hear about as much is the finding work, keeping work, trying desperately to get paid for the work, then doing it all over again.
And freedom? Oh yeah, I'm like Easy Rider up in this piece with all my freedom. I wave my middle finger at the man with the disdain of a surly 15-year-old because I don't have to be in any office except the one on the first floor of my home, and I can show up whenever I like. BUT, then I'm calling said man, hat in hand, and asking if he needs any words this week. So let me tell ya, I've got plenty of freedom:
- FREEDOM TO PANIC: About this week/month/quarter's income. And why it was so much higher/lower/nonexistent compared to last week/month/quarter. And where next week/month/quarter's will come from. Lather, rinse, repeat. Or, from a new business perspective, swinging from vine to vine like a monkey, except sometimes I don't have that next vine in sight (much less in my hand) until long after I've let go of the previous one. (And I don't blame you for now picturing a monkey shampooing itself.) Whether it was getting used to the feast-or-famine aspect of how work comes in, or the first uncomfortable call with someone who was 60+ days late on payment, from the get-go I got an ego check and a reality check, all while waiting for the next check. Lucky thing I'm from Brooklyn and was born with the hustle gene.
- FREEDOM TO WORK 24/7: Nope, I don't do the 9-to-6 or the 40-hour week. Some days I do the 10 to 3. Other times, I do the 10 to 10. Or the 9:30 to midnight. Or the work-the-entire-holiday-weekend-to-get-it-done-so-I-have-a-chance-at-the-next-piece-of-business. My schedule is my own, and I love being able to begin working after I've dropped the kids at school. But I take the work as it comes. The ebbs and flows. And sometimes that means working crazier hours than I ever did at an agency.
- FREEDOM TO DO EVERYTHING: Being my own boss? AWESOME. Being my own IT guy, HR department, webmaster, accounts payable, collection agency, new business development officer, travel planner, scheduler, and traffic manager? Not so much since it takes away from my time to actually WRITE.
- FREEDOM TO REDEFINE WHAT I DO: I came into this with big dreams of writing kick-ass ads for kick-assier clients, which I have. But as a professional freelance copywriter and creative director, I've also created sell sheets, annual reports, white papers, web sites, birth announcements, and direct mail pieces. I've named companies and products, created logos, and led teams on local and national campaigns. And in doing those I've learned about military robots, payroll software, pro baseball teams, cancer meds, government consulting and so much more. Which is great for continuing to expand the verticals I'm versed in.
But the funny thing is, I wouldn't change it for the world. In almost a decade of freelancing, I've learned a lot about myself, and I've become a better person for it -- a better writer. A better businessman. A better negotiator. A better planner. A better father. A better husband. Because it has taken all my skills, every fiber of my being, every bit of patience, faith, and belief in myself to make this work.
And like any freedom, it's been worth every bit of work.
© 2014 Kwame DeRoché