Freelanciversary: One Year into Stupid, Crazy, Freedom

If you’re trying to get a handle on things, this day last year I was significantly more manic and probably at least a little bit less coherent than I usually am. By which I am trying to say that today marks an entire year since I’ve been gainfully employed, by my own choice, and vive la diffĂ©rence.

I have, thus far subsisted on grubs and lichens that I find while foraging on the forest floor.

Just kidding, I have employed myself with a series of freelance contracts doing online marketing from content creation (design, copy, video, audio, etc.) to campaign management, and I very much enjoy my work and my life in ways that had been quite unknown to me for several years. I’m still not earning anything close to what I was, but I’ve hit every major milestone I reached for, and that counts for something.

I made money in the first quarter, broke even in the second quarter, and had the incredible honor of more than doubling income from Q2 to Q4. Basically, I may be earning less, but I’d rather earn less forever than work for someone else for a second.

You know how I got a corner office? I put my fucking office in the corner of my house.

There’s way more drama in freelance life. Every set-back isn’t just a problem for the project, it’s a problem for my very livelihood, for who I am as a professional and a person. Whenever anything goes wrong, I do wonder why I even wake up in the morning. Over the last year, I routinely skipped meals, not because I was too busy being fantastic. But because I hadn’t done enough work to justify nutrition. I am now way more aware of just how crazy and mean I really am. And yet, it’s still better to rule in freelance hell than serve in office drone heaven.

I can hear yourself saying that you would also like to take an entire year to start earning less than half your current income. Well, it’s a hard road, but the rewards are clear(ly not monetary).

I’ve compiled a short list of everything I’ve learned in my first year of freelancing. So you too, can wonder what kind of looser you’ve willingly become.

  1. Get up every day and do some amount of work, even if it’s just crying at your desk because you never thought you’d be homeless as a grown up.
  2. Keep your network close. Start a newsletter, even if the only people on it are your boyfriend, his mom, and your ex boss. If they’ll subscribe to your shit-ass newsletter, they’ll do anything for you, including talking you up to everybody they meet.
  3. Always take the time to talk to your clients. Acknowledgement is really important.
  4. Use contracts. Projects get exciting and stressful and a million different things so quickly. The more specific your contract is (include number of revisions, delivery date, things that may hamper delivery date, who does what, when and where, etc). I use this guy very helpful
  5. Use Freshbooks! All my accounting nightmares are over, freeing me up to do useful things. For only $20 a month.
  6. Don’t be too proud to anything, and don’t let the bastards get you down. A client who may just want 500 words of copy on a Monday might turn around and need an entire ebook, or website, or God knows what the next Thursday.
  7. Be nice, ask questions, confirm everything. Good clients like to be understood more than they hate to be bothered.
  8. At the end of the day, not everybody is a perfect match. Let those difficult clients go. They need to find someone they work well with, just like you do. Don’t let resentment fester, pass people around if you know they’re not for you.
  9. Take care of yourself. You’re your only instrument. Unless you actually do have instruments, then take care of those as well. Don’t feel guilty about taking care of yourself. And by this I mean eat regular meals away from your desk. If you’re not the kind of person who has to be reminded to feed yourself, you may need to step up your game.
  10. Learn time management or die

I’d like to add that three things have made this day possible, and the are: A generous severance package, unemployment insurance, and a boyfriend with a job. Without them, I’d probably be cashing in my 401k.