So You Wanna Be A Freelancer

It was this time last year I left full time work and went out on my own. Reading what I wrote back then you will note I truly believed I would have more time for my blog. Hilarious. But I really had no way of knowing what was coming, and that September 2010 to September 2011 would be like five year’s worth of experiences all at once, changing the course of my career dramatically.

Over the past twelve months I’ve often met people who latch excitedly onto the fact that I left my job and now do my own thing. It seems most everybody wants a crack at doing the same, no matter what their interest or occupation. While it contains little practical help I wrote this for them:

So You Wanna Be A Freelancer – Some Thoughts From A First-Year Graduate

Get a credit card.

Get one now. Before you leave your full-time job. I’m not suggesting you get into debt, I just know that I wouldn’t have survived this year without one. There is no such thing as cash flow, more a series of spluttering bursts dispersed by long spells of n o t h i n g. It also helps to have a buffer saved before you begin.

Get the Internet.

I tried to go without having it at my house for far too long. You can pay for it on your credit card. Then you can claim it on tax (I hope).

Get a day job.

Yeah you head right – everybody does it but no one talks about it. Waitressing, a shop job, babysitting, anything that will bring a few dollars to each week. Something casual is best because of the flexibility. Bonus tip: find something that is related to your number one vice and you’ll also save money through staff perks! Barista = endless free coffee, theatre usher = free movies. Y’see?

Go to things.

Especially free things – symposiums and lectures and what not. It’s nice doing things during the day when you would otherwise have been working, plus you get to meet people. I’ve noticed that people who are out at events during the day are often afforded some kind of respect, like you must be a somebody, or at least be representing a somebody. Sometimes there are refreshments. All win.

What is time, anyway?

Time management. You really have to learn it. Not just that, but you have to learn what specifically works for you. Some people like whiteboards, some people scrawl lists on bits of napkin, some download apps. It doesn’t matter how you do it you just need to get organised. And you have to actually force yourself to work. You have to become acquainted with your work ethic. Like I realised I do my ‘best’ writing between the hours of 3 and 5 in the afternoon. I’m not kidding. And procrastinate if you have to – factor it into your plan for the day. Whether it’s Facebook or vacuuming, everyone has something and it’s akin to a dog turning in circles three times on its bed before it lays down to sleep. It’s just a part of life and you have to get it out of your system.

The work hours are the hard part, because nothing ever stops. If you are awake then the ‘office’ is open. You could sit up all night answering emails, you could take phone calls all through dinner. You won’t neccessarily get more done because of it. Make a decision about when you think work should stop for the day or the night but try not to get too attached. There will be weekend meetings, there will be late night skype sessions. Moreso if you are working across timezones. If you are fortunate enough to be working in a field you love it can help to consider these occurrences as less like work and more like everyday tasks that just need to be done, kinda like brushing your teeth.

All that said, try and have a day off every once in a while. Even if you have to lie to everybody about being booked out with meetings or something. Do the most un-work related thing you can think of.

Open yourself to the possibilities of the universe.

I’m only half kidding. I thought I pretty much knew what I wanted to do when I left my job: writing and curating, swanning about in galleries an so on. Instead I am mostly doing something that had never occurred to me at all: festival producing. In fact if anyone had told me about it before hand I would have said that sounds horrible get away from me no never ever. It’s funny how things turn out.

Find freelancer friends.

It helps to surround yourself with as many people as possible who aren’t doing the ‘regular’ 9 to 5 thing, because you can all too soon begin to feel completely excluded form normality. Together you can whinge about how poor and busy you are, you can arrange co-working days for added motivation, and you can even find jobs for one another through your connections.

Don’t give up, but know that you always can if you want.

There will always be another job somewhere out there if you decide you want to go back. Remember that you’re doing this to yourself by choice. That makes it sound horrible, but sometimes it will be. Other times you will amaze yourself and be prouder than you’ve ever been of anything you’ve done before. You will be more tired, more stressed and more poor than you can ever recall, but you will be surprised at the respect you gain, the incredible projects you find your way into, and the inspiring people you get to work with on them.

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