6 Things They Don't Tell You About Freelancing
I wanted to begin this entry by saying hi from a coffee shop, of which I consider my second home. I think most freelancers would agree, right? It's been a couple of months since I holed up in the bungalow that is our house, spent most of my days working in the four corners of our relatively quiet home. I've been freelancing for two and a half years already, but I just started doing it full time back in January. I wrote a blog earlier this year talking about the high notes of freelancing. Now I wanted to write this to give you an update, if you could call it that, on how are things working out for me in the gig industry because like most stories, there are two sides of it: good and the "not really" side of it. But I guess it's subjective on how you look at it, so maybe we can call this as the things they don't normally tell you instead.
1. You can pick which projects to take, but you might actually end up picking nothing.
Many will particularly love this part of the whole freelancing thing because you're somewhat your own boss. It's empowering, you taking the wheel of your professional life. You don't have to be miserable when you get handed a project you don't like, which most of us have been doing whenever we encounter one. "It's all part of the game, dear." And I agree, you shouldn't choose comfort all the time, especially in terms of your career. Some of the most profound lessons I've learned over the years were from the most brutal experiences. And I would have gone through all them even if I have the choice to dodge them. Although one of the things that they weren't able to tell you is that your standards could go way beyond your head (since you the power to choose) and you'll end up being very picky. And I'm speaking from experience. Everyone would want to do something profound and all sorts of amazing but we often forget that for us to start creating those things, we have to actually be bad at them. I often tell myself that I shouldn't be afraid of failure because it's a masked version of success. From failure to failure, we learn to fail better. So fail away, people.
2. Working from home, I mean *literally* in your home is the best.
Let's be real here, the term "Work From Home" can basically mean anything aside from actually working in your house. It's become an excuse for ourselves to get away from the office and just be someplace else. Not that it is wrong, I won't definitely tell you that because I'm actually one of those people who live in the noise of bustling coffee shops. I love a busy environment—I just don't quite jump out of joy to the 9 to 5 corporate life (I've been in it for 4 years). I don't hate it, I just prefer the former more. See the difference? But more than anything, working from your actual home is one of those privileges you won't easily appreciate until you started doing it regularly. You can wake up anytime you want, wear anything you want, have options to choose from what you wanted for breakfast and spend less money. Most of all, you don't have to deal with traffic.
3. You're unconsciously leaning towards self-isolation.
This one hits home for me. While doing your own thing can lead to wondrous things like being an independent individual who doesn't need people to get shit done, being a master multitasker, learning new things and more (I could go on), you started to forget that interaction is an essential part of working, especially if you're on the creative side. Ideas are born from constant intellectual sparrings and exasperation (heated discussions can actually be handy, just don't do it every time) a.k.a. "brainstorming"—and not in front of your laptop. You miss seeing people, the team banter or basically speaking with anybody that's not your family or your client. The thing I miss the most is learning from other people; there are only so many things you can learn on your own, and it's always a joy for me to get into the heads of people I meet and work with and hear about their process, what inspires them to do beautiful work and their taste in music. It's never the same experience. Sure, I'll hit up the coffee shops I frequent, but the most action I'll get is having to talk to the barista when you make your order, thank them and that's it. I'm not one of those social butterflies who can make friends with anyone: I'm more on the introvert party. This began to take a toll on me around the 5th month of freelancing.
4. Asking for payment could be a trying effort.
Getting partial payment for something you're about to do isn't really a thing in the gig industry—this is one thing I wish we could've taken a page off from the corporate life. There are sometimes pull-out-your-hair moments when you've yet to follow up (when you've done it 2-3 times already) with clients to get paid for a job, and you'll most definitely hear these things to after doing so: the finance/treasury department has yet to release your check, can you send another invoice (they misplaced it) and so on. I don't blame them or the system and it's just something you really have to deal with. It could help if you remind them ahead of time too, you know. But if there is one thing that I'm very sure of, it's this: you'll never be paid on time. So be sure you're financially ready to afford late payments. I wasn't, and that's a mistake I've learned the hard way.
5. Stop seeking validation [from your clients] for your work.
If you're someone who looks forward to a tap in the back or recognition for doing kickass work, I'd have to stop you right there. That's not how it works, or maybe that's just me. Think of it this way: they hire you, you do your work, then you get paid. That's it. If they like your work, they'll keep hiring you for jobs. That's the most recognition you'll get. But there are some companies who are not cool enough to not acknowledge you for your work, though they rarely come by. There are also one-off jobs—do it, move on and find another gig. And you also must be self-aware to know when you're doing a shit's job on your work. Transparency is one of the best traits you could ever have as a freelancer.
6. You start to yearn more for purposeful work.
When I was still working for an agency, doing the corporate thing, I barely have time to think about if a project's purpose was something I believed in or whether it has a purpose, period. It can get really chaotic and busy, and let's be honest, sometimes you really don't have a say in these things. That's the part that broke me. So when I started freelancing, it's also turned into a journey towards self-discovery. The more I have the power to choose which work to take, the more I learn about which things I'm passionate about, initiatives I wanted to be part of and support. Though I'd have to say that it also doesn't work always like that, you still have to follow the rules and make your clients happy, it's a tricky thing (aren't most things though?).
I've been doing social media and content for a couple of years now, have built the coolest working relationships with some of the people and clients I've met, and it's a sweet life to earn for a living. But I realized that I didn't want this to be just a medium to earn money. I wanted what I do to have a backbone, a bigger purpose regardless if I'm doing this on my own or for somebody else. I sound like I'm looking for salvation but I'm not. Not yet anyway.
And this is where I tell you that you should be running for the hills and just don't do this. I'm kidding. Though it's not really for everyone. But I do hope you take all stops possible before you make a decision. No one was there to tell me these things though I'm positive you can handle anything. I'm not saying that it is an awful profession to do, but I've always said that I'm always going to be honest about the things I write. It's not always sunshine and butterflies, but it's real. And a couple more considerations wouldn't hurt, right?
Note: The things written here are based on my experiences, and is not done to hurt or take hits on anyone.