Working for yourself is an absolute dream. It can be all of the stereotypes that people associate with it such as working in your PJ's, having your own schedule, being able to get up whenever you want but it can also have it's downsides like any good job.
I've been freelancing for 6 years now and these tips are just my own observations and experiences, all of which I've learnt to work with in order to thrive. I hope they help you too!
1. "Everyone else seems to have it sussed out..."
Ever thought you'd spend a good half an hour browsing Pinterest to get inspiration for a new client or project only to feel like a complete failure after those 30 minutes are up? Yep, happens to me at least once a month! Trouble is we are all just seeing the highlight reels of everyone's lives, and the real truth is that nothing of what they have achieved came quick or easy. Take the analogy of the road, the journey - your freelance career is just as such. It might all seem straight and clear, but there may be forks in the road or winds and bends that take you to places you weren't expecting...that's the joy of the journey. It's the experience. You will suss it all out too one day, and if not, take comfort in knowing that someone out there is looking at your work and painfully pining that you have it all sussed out....
2. "I should say yes to every project"
This is a massive temptation especially when cashflow is dry, but ask yourself some simple questions and you should never really go too wrong:
- Does this project align with my own ethos and working ethic?
- Does it actually pay my time?
- Are they asking for my creative talent, or for someone to copy someone else's work?
I've had many experiences where I've been quite desperate for money to pay rent that I was considering getting paid a pittance, to copy someone else's style, to maybe pay a quarter of said rent. In the end I knew it was wrong and not what I wanted to be associated with. I politely declined the work to the client (albeit thinking I was an absolute lunatic at the time) but within a few weeks a dream client came along. The universe knows and will always balance itself. Never sell yourself short.
3. "I should be working like [Insert amazing designer/illustrator/freelancer's name here]
Working like this will only bring you down and make you feel like a fraud. Live genuine and work genuine! If a client doesn't like your style and wants you to work like another illustrator/designer/freelancer, then they aren't your target market. Think about that for a moment, because the world is crammed full of 7.4 billion people and within all those bodies there will be someone who aligns themselves with the product you're offering. Sure, said amazing designer who you think you should work like is raking it in and has the big clients, but that is their story, not yours. Carve your own path and see what trails you can blaze.
4. "I need to be working X amount a hours a day."
Did you know that the 9-5 working day was only introduced during the Industrial Revolution to prevent people working 15 hour days? Since then this has stuck, but there are people in the world who only work 4 hour days and still achieve a lot. There is no hard and fast rule for how you should work but only you know how you work best. If you know you can only do your best work in the AM then get up early and hustle. We're all individuals and we all function differently.
Studies have shown that people tend to work best in 90 minute work cycles, so if you are struggling to get work done but not burn yourself out, try working 90 minutes then break for 20, and repeat. I personally work better when I set myself a target time to work to and see it as a challenge to see how much I can complete in that time.
5. "When I'm not doing client work I'm not actually working."
This one I am the WORST for. We all need to remember that we work in creative fields as freelancers. Our jobs need to be nurtured with development and inspiration. So you think that visiting a museum or reading a design magazine isn't working? I'm here to tell you to try and see it differently because this is essentially visual nourishment for your brain.
How can you evolve and grow as a creative if you don't stay ahead of the curve? How can you bring innovative and exciting projects to clients if you don't go out into the world and drink in all it has to offer? Staying inside and furiously scanning the internet is one tool to finding inspiration, but you will find nothing better than out in the wild, on the streets, in a conversation with a likeminded friend or within the pages of a book you never thought you'd read. Most of my ideas have come to me when I'm not trying to be in work mode, when I'm relaxed and exploring.
So give yourself a break. If drawing can become a paid job, that defies peoples perceptions of what a job is, then research is just another facet of that gem.
Now it's over to you guys! Have you made any realisations within your self-employed or freelance career? Feel free to share them below or tweet them to me @deborahpanesar using the hashtag #freelancelies