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Freelancing is the new ‘black’ in the economy. There are plenty of tips on the Internet about preparing yourself before taking the leap. However, it wasn’t something I really signed up for when I stumbled into freelance writing 8 years ago.
The advertising company I was working for closed down, around the same time I planned to resign to go into the food & beverage industry.
Just one day before signing the offer letter for the job of Assistant Chef, I went for an All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) adventure. I crashed the ATV and broke my arm.
I had surgery to fix the fracture but I wouldn’t be strong enough for the heavy duty kitchen work. My F&B aspirations went up in smoke (pardon the pun).
At that point, I felt lost and didn’t really want to commit to advertising life again. Yet I didn’t know what else to do.
I only knew how to write. And with one good arm, it was basically all I could do at that moment. Hence, my writing shop began.
Over the years, I have flitted between permanent jobs and freelancing, depending on the season and need. I’ve concluded that the grass will be green on the side you water it.
Here’s what I observed between both sides and how I manage as a freelancer.
Yay! No fighting traffic.
No ad-hoc, long drawn out meetings. No colleagues suddenly disrupting your ‘mojo’.
Reality: More time doesn’t mean more ‘productivity’. It’s even easier to waste time when you’re not accountable to a team.
Plan: I try my best to stick to a schedule, like how I would going to a daily job. I give myself wiggle room to run chores, meet people, chill out when I feel the need to, exercise. It is all about setting a healthy routine.
Yay! No ‘ridiculous’ bosses!
Reality: Well, as ‘bad’ as you think the boss is, there is always something good to learn and working alone means potentially missing out on management learning curves.
Plan: Previously there was a lack of platforms, for example: LinkedIn to learn from thought leaders. I started out like a fish out of water and was usually in ‘survival’ mode. I was blessed to have found jobs that paid fairly so I could focus on the work and adapt to this new work mode.
Now there are endless resources available to freelancers, so I have to be more intentional in using use these platforms to learn and connect with the professionals.
When it comes to client management, I now take on the role of a consultant and give clients objective recommendations, even if it does not serve a profitable purpose to me.
Verdict – every experience you encounter as a freelancer will teach you something. Keep the good and apply for future, use the negative to learn how to turn things around.
Yay! No ‘office drama’.
Reality: The silence is cool for awhile. But ultimately, humans are designed for connections. That is why solitary confinement in prisons is the highest punishment.
Plan: Personally, I veer towards introversion. It is an extra effort to get out and intentionally meet people. New people is tough for me, especially groups.
But I realised that even if I might not be the life of a party; just being around people helps me feel less lonely. A freelance life means I have the flexibility to volunteer for social causes that I usually can’t being tied to an office.
Yay! A different cafe everyday!
Reality: Once you head out of the house, it means money. The few dollars of petrol, parking, spending on food…due to inconsistent income, every dollar now counts.
Plan: Setting a weekly budget helped me stick to an expenses plan. Do give yourself an occasional treat.
I cook almost all my meals. Although it is tedious for one, the health benefits runs a long course (when you cook healthily and use quality ingredients, of course!) Freelancers have no medical coverage so you don’t want to fall ill. Even self-medicating from the pharmacy is extra cost.
Yay! More time for my interests.
Reality: Depending on your interests, some might require more investment, some less. Unless you are freelancing with a good pool of reserves, this may not be an issue. But what about interests that need money?
Plan: For example, I like cooking and I thought I can sell food as a side gig but I have no capital. Starting with what I have means I can only sell low volumes, hence it is eventually unprofitable and costs a lot of time as I have to do everything on my own. So instead, I might think of working part-time in a F&B place to observe their working practices and earn some dough.
Yay! My time, my terms.
Reality: Customers somehow expect freelancers to be available 24/7 or “cheap, fast and good”.
Plan: It becomes real if freelancers feed that expectation. I understand that sometimes it is unavoidable – I have been in those situations before when I was still new in the scene and needed to eat.
I won’t say if you should or should not take a job if it is below RM XXX…within a certain timeframe…because these are relative to everyone’s self-worth and at times, situations.
At the end of the day, it is what you are comfortable with and it is up to you to communicate that to the client.
So, that’s the gist on how I took a dive into solo-ing but I do not impose an absolute on myself. If the right employment opportunity comes along, I won’t say no, but I am also assured that I have something to fall back on and I can easily adjust to lifestyle changes when necessary.
For more articles on the freelance life, read Watch out for These 4 Signs – Your Freelance Client Could Be a Waste of Time and How I Quit My Five-Figure Salary Job To Become A Travel Writer.