In honor of Liz’s recent announcement that she’s quit her part time gig of many years to pursue her event planning company full time, I thought I’d share some of my musings on living life as a freelancer.
In the event industry, many of us are self-employed or work in start-ups or small firms where we enjoy flexible schedules, often working at home or at multiple, changing locations. There are pros and cons to this kind of freewheeling set-up, especially when you work completely as an independent contractor and most particularly, when you own your company.
I work as a freelance writer and independent consultant. Thus, I can sit here working at my dining room table, in my flannel pants, all day, and make tea when I want, and when the weather is nice, sit out on the porch for a spell when I need some air. If I get hungry, I only need to step into the kitchen and heat up some leftovers from last night’s dinner. Comforting sounds – the tea kettle, the rumble of the mail truck outside, the water pipes downstairs – bring me a sense of calm, peace, belonging.
However, on those days when I’m working at home, I also notice if there’s a sink full of dirty dishes, the piles of unsorted mail and the dust bunnies in the corners of the rooms. I am endlessly distracted by the clutter, and easily tempted to engage in some kind of cleaning or straightening up, because, I rationalize, THAT will help me focus much better on my work.
While there’s no one watching over me, I also have to maintain my own internal discipline, resisting the temptation to spend a little too much time on social media platforms, especially if I’m on deadline for an assignment. I have to set my own priorities and make a schedule outlining which projects I’m going to work on, and for how long.
I have a lot of creative freedom to indulge my ideas and inspirations, but I also have to bear the full weight of financial pressure related to keeping my business solvent and meeting my expenses. My ability to do so successfully is directly related to my own level of efficiency.
The most gratifying thing is to be able to pursue the projects and relationships about which I’m most passionate. How often, when working for someone else’s company, have you been in a meeting with a client or other associate, and had to bite your tongue because your impulses were not directly in line with that of your employer? That’s a tough one, especially if you are concerned (as you should be) with a sense of propriety and boundaries. Nothing says “warning” to future clients or collaborators louder than someone who is not loyal to his current boss or who does not recognize that timing is everything.
When you work for yourself, you have the freedom to explore relationships on your own terms, according to your own agenda. It’s fantastic. Just remember that with that level of control also comes just as much responsibility. The consequences of your choices will be yours to bear, and yours alone. It’s a sobering realization, but you’ve got to be ready to embrace it.
What I observe is that we live in a very changing time, with traditional employment situations giving way more and more to entrepreneurship, freelance assignments or the cobbling together of multiple part-time positions. There are many opportunities out there to make a living in ways you may not have already envisioned for yourself. It takes a little ingenuity, some patience and flexibility and the confidence that you can make it happen.
Here’s a song I love that always inspires me in this regard: State of Independence sung by the late, great Donna Summer.