I took a little of my own advice this month and escaped to Palermo, Sicily where the October weather was still hot and the sea dragged me out into its depths. Everybody needs a holiday and this one happened to come at the perfect moment – I had been nursing a three day headache as I juggled deadlines from all my different jobs.
Taking a sunny and sandy holiday was just one little suggestion in article on How to survive life as a freelancer for the We Are Can journal.
The etymology of the word ‘freelance’ comes from a coinage by Sir Walter Scott in Ivanhoe in 1820 for ‘medieval mercenary warrior’. As odd as its dissemination into the English language may seem something of the term’s original meaning still rings true; working freelance requires bravery and courage when you don’t know where your next pay cheque will be coming from.
This article is less about real advice on how to find work and earn money as a freelancer, and more about surviving the psychological pitfalls of balancing many ‘irregular’ jobs.
1. Be a forgiving boss
Some bosses are just plain miserly and mean, they sit opposite you scowling and grunting and making you feel guilty about leaving at 6pm on the dot. This should be one of the reasons you decided to become a freelancer; so you could have more freedom as your own boss, rather than being chained to a desk with a disagreeable one.
Just as there will be times when you feel as though you are juggling EVERYTHING there will also be (occasionally threatening) lulls. When the lull comes along don’t feel guilty about giving yourself a mini-break (I don’t necessarily mean one that involves sun and sand, but occasionally this too). Equally it is also OK to surrender to the impossibility of working to five deadlines all at once. You may be a freelance warrior, but you are not super-human.
While a little bit of self-discipline is the freelancer’s key attribute, chastising yourself is no way to get motivated. Open up a bottle of wine, sit back and relax.
2. Don’t become a freelance hermit
While working from home may sound like a dream to all office-bound labourers, the reality can feel a little more like a house-sitting sentence. When you’re at home there are a million and one dull distractions which can easily edge their way into your working day; household chores, daytime TV, even small tasks like picking up the post seem to suck at my time and efficiency.
It’s good for your sanity to leave the house every once in a while. If your restlessness is getting the better of you then it is worth considering renting desks in shared office spaces. Sometimes making a ‘commute’ to work is the perfect morning-kick to action. Even if you are heading to a desk where only your rules apply at least you have escaped the magnetic pull of the duvet.
The savviest of freelancers know that desk space can be rented for the price of an Americano. Don’t feel ashamed, head out to a café and the sea of laptops will all confirm that you are not alone in your wifi-abuse and dirty caffeine habit. Of course the temptation for cakes, lunches and fancy lattes will all increase the risk of rising expenses and overheads, but the most disciplined of freelancers can manage to maintain enviable rents of around £10 per week.
3. Mixing Money with Pleasure
Those ‘lulls’ I mentioned mean that freelancers need to be clever with their money. It’s not just about keeping irregular hours, freelance work is also about irregular pay packets. This means that every so often, just like regular nine to fivers, you might feel compelled to work for the lure of the money alone.
But freelancing should be about working to your passions and values. Make sure that you mix jobs for money with jobs for pleasure in a nice equal measure. Those high-paid mind-numbing contracts are probably not as valuable to you as those exciting, but potentially lower paid jobs that your heart tells you, you really want.
4. Always put a positive spin on things
Essentially I am freelancer because I am one of those fresh-faced graduates from the so-called ‘Lost Generation’ who can’t find a full time job. But that stark fact is more than a little depressing.
It is necessary to remind myself sometimes of all the perks of the job(s): the many exciting projects I have been able to work on; the fast pace of work which continually presents me with fresh challenges; the flexibility to devote time to the things I am really passionate about; along with the occasional self-appointed lie-in and holi-day.
I recently discovered the coinage of a new phenomenon in an article in the Evening Standard, the ‘Slashie’. Described as ‘the entrepreneurial’ and ‘savvy Londoners holding down more than one job’, the Slashie is a rather glamorous and flattering (dare I say it, even ‘trendy’) version of the humble freelancer.
Instead of apologising for the long-winded answer it feels necessary to give when somebody asks just exactly what it is I do, I can now whip out an ego-boosting slash/slash job title: Writer/Press Officer/Digital Marketer/Copy Writer/Editor. In reality it might make me sound like a bit of dick, but in my head, damn it sounds good.