Working freelance is extremely stressful. There is always either too much work or too little of it, too much of yourself in your work or not enough of it, sporadic pay-as-you-go checks or not paychecks at all, no safety, no security, no stability. However, if you play your cards right, it is also the most effective way to have your name and your work be seen, a great way to pave the way for your career and to find a footing in the industry you wish to be a part of.
1. Listen to what your peers working in the same industry have to say. Listen to their experiences and how they address their work, and listen to what they are saying to you, but most importantly, listen to those who are in a higher position than you. Regardless of whether your boss is the same age as you or fifteen years older, their experience and ability has permitted them to be in the position that they are in, so listen.
2. Often I wake up early in the morning, and by three in the afternoon, I know nothing except that I have done nothing. If you do freelance work from home, as I do, create a schedule for yourself. Think of it in terms of going in for an office job, Monday through Friday, and as a compensation for being allowed to wear your flannel pajamas all day, your job demands your total focus.
3. Because of the security that freelance work lacks, it often leaves you feeling insecure about your position and your work. Here it is easy to become defensive of your work, particularly when it is critiqued by a superior. You may want to fight back, reject criticism and make no changes to your work. Don’t; don’t fight. Your superiors have nothing to lose, but you can learn a lot from this.
4. If writing poetry is your passion but writing ad content is your job, make time for your poetry, or whatever it is that you love and would one day want to have it evolve into a career. There is no such thing as “not enough time” for the things you love. Submit your art to places where it could be appreciated. You may be paid very little for it, or nothing at all, but you deserve to reward your talent by exhibiting it. Keep your art to yourself even, but do it. Don’t lose yourself in compromise; set aside an hour or few to focus on yourself and your passion, even if you work twelve hours a day for your freelance job. There are no excuses for not doing the things you love.
5. When freelancing, you are often faced with the dilemma of having to do something that you don’t want to do, nothing morally opposing, but something that makes you feel like you need to compromise your truest self and you are forced to come out of your comfort-zone. Remember that you are not a character on Girls, that you cannot just stomp your feet and quit your job in order to pursue your truest self, or be magically handed a book deal or an acceptance to an esteemed MFA program. This is real life. Often we have to compromise parts of our present selves for a better near-future. Figure out what is more important to you: your career right now, or your career a year from now. Learn to bite your tongue every now and then. Grow a pair of balls. Take compromise with a stride.
6. That being said, don’t allow compromise to silence yourself entirely. Don’t be afraid to speak up when you have a great idea or think that you have been treated unfairly, but have more than just one sentence or an accusatory finger to back yourself up. A freelancer who knows his or her shit is given tremendous respect.
7. Never fear asking for help from anyone. In the 7th grade, I was terribly shy, had somewhat of an ego and was terrible at Math. My teacher would urge for me to see her afterwards for help, and I never did, and at the end of the year, I failed my Math class. Because freelancing lacks structure and near-constant supervision, many questions will arise on your part. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice; you are not lessening yourself in any way, only bettering yourself.
8. Take into consideration the advice you’ve been given and your critiques, and implement them to see changes.
9. “The best work in literature is always done by those who do not depend on it for their daily bread,” said Oscar Wilde. A freelancer’s check, specifically those who are starting out, is not enough to survive on. For those who do freelance work that can be done from anywhere at any time, don’t quit your day job, or find a day job. The plan is to at least be able to afford yourself healthcare. Maintain a day job until your freelance job can supplement your healthcare.
10. Reward yourself for your determination to make your dreams a reality. Not only does it feel good to be rewarded for all that you have done, but this system also serves as a motivator to work harder to further your ambitions. Reward yourself for every paragraph your write with a spoonful of Nutella (I am now on my 9th spoon). How you reward yourself doesn’t have to be extravagant, and there are inexpensive ways to feel good for the hard work you’ve done. Have a cookie, or three. Buy a book you’ve wanted to read from a used bookstore for $2. Buy that Ramones t-shirt you’ve wanted for so long from the thrift store. Ladies, buy yourself a croptop from Forever21 for $7.80. That’s feel-good in a sentence. Have a beer. Take a run on a beautiful spring day — you deserve it. Whatever it is that you do, don’t forget to celebrate yourself.