Lest you be tempted by the dream of freelancing …

I’m not complaining for a minute; this is the life I have chosen for myself and I love it. As in any job, though, there are good days and bad days.

I am often asked for advice by people who are considering going self employed in creative fields and my first line is a reality check. If I had known all this when I started three and a half years ago, I don’t think it would have changed anything, but this is my second attempt to “go it alone” after I learned some hard lessons the first time round, which was about ten years ago.

Dream

Reality

Shuffling to your PC in your pyjamas with a cup of coffee at 11am to start work Getting up at 6am and sometimes working ‘til midnight to meet a deadline.
Lunching with friends Skipping meals because you are “in the zone” and don’t want to lose the flow
Being your own boss and beholden to nobody Working for a string of “bosses” in succession and often simultaneously
Never having to fill in another job application Being on a permanent job hunt to line up the next month of work
Never having to go through another annual performance review Trying to stay on top of your game and develop your skills with virtually no guidance
Holidays when you want them No paid leave and the laptop comes on holiday with you because it’s impossible to “abandon the baby”
Extended amounts of time in your own little world Missing the banter and mutual support of a work environment
Doing what you love every day Tax returns, accounts, marketing, pitching and admin at least 30% of the time
Time to work on your “big idea” Shelving the “big idea” until things calm down a bit
Having control over your working environment Moving to the kitchen because the desk is too cluttered, tripping over the laundry pile and the dog/cat who is doing everything in its power to distract you
“My office is a coffee shop” Spending half an hour trying to get access to their unfeasibly slow WiFi, getting the shakes by lunch time (after your 4th espresso), going outside to take a phone call that you don’t want to be overheard
Practice the guitar in your “lunch break” Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and Stumbleupon in your “lunch break”
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7 Responses

  1. My father had a small business when I was growing up. He worked long hours. He had many roles in the business….manufacturing in the shop, selling, installing, customer service. As a child, I didn’t like the long hours he worked. But his business did well and he provided a good life for his family. Watching from the sidelines, the whole endeavor seemed to be really stressful and difficult. I wanted no part of what he did. Many years later, when my father was an old man, and experiencing the various issues that go along with that, he often drifted back in time to those days, reliving them in his mind over and over. I learned that as crazy and stressful as his business was, he clearly loved every moment of it. They were great times for him, though they didn’t always appear that way. He was making it his way and he loved that, even though sometimes he had to work too long, even though he sometimes had problems with employees, even though some customers were very difficult.

    • Yes – there is something profoundly satisfying in building something from nothing, at the end of the day; I think that’s the pay-off.

  2. I’ve shared similar things about the life of the touring musician. Perhaps the least glamorous life ever conceived. Oh, and I gained 30 pounds on beer and restaurant food. Yeah, awesome.

  3. Dream – every day is ‘mufti day’ as a freelancer!

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