Freelancing sounds pretty good on the surface. I mean it’s got the word “free” built right in. And a lance? Pretty badass weapon in most situations (except close combat but a spear could work and that’s kind of a lance or whatever). So yeah, being “freelance” should be pretty cool.
Except in the beginning. In the beginning it’s pretty tough and that’s where I find myself right now. At the beginning not really knowing what to do. A lot of the information I’ve seen on the net (that isn’t just Google bait trying to attract clicks) about being a freelancer is usually advice from people that have made it work and are doing well. Very little from people that failed overall or in the very moment of starting that kind of life. That’s what this post is intended to be about, at least when I started writing it. Who knows where it’ll end up when I’m finished. Right now I am pretty much thrust into either being a full time freelancer or throwing away everything I’m doing right now and start over with a steady job. Neither option is particularly appealing compared to, say, winning the lottery at age 30 and retiring. Here’s hoping that’ll happen but in the meantime here are my thoughts on the first steps out into the water in list form, because the internet likes lists.
Disclaimer: This is not meant to be 100% accurate as it is based heavily on my own very limited experiences at a rather tumultuous time in my life. Take everything with a bucket of salt.
Stage 1: Denial
For me the whole idea came on pretty fast. On a Saturday I was offered my first gig taking photos for actual money. On Wednesday that week I took those photos and got paid. The next day I was told my hours were being cut at my security job. Not that I worked security, what I mean was it was steady constant work that covered my rent and bills, important expenses I had no real control over the amount because they were fixed. That money always came in every month so the rest of the work I was doing was what you might call semi-freelance. The point is I didn’t really think of myself as a freelancer at the time even though at least 50% of my income was pure freelance and I worked out my taxes in a freelance style. (Voodoo)
So when suddenly my “non-freelance” work dried up it was really hard to make that mental shift or to even comprehend what was going on. I guess you could say I wasn’t really trying 110% at that job but I didn’t think it was bad enough to get cut. Again, denial. Thinking bad things can’t happen to you is going to be very bad for a freelance life. I just hope I can shake it completely before I wind up homeless under a piss stained bridge. Or worse…moving back to the USA! (Just kidding guys, ya know I love ya).
Stage 2: Anger
Oh yeah, I’ve had anger issues for a long, long time. Most of my memories from elementary school stem from anger issues. I am a broken tortured soul who’s only escape is ART!
Sorry about that. Yes I was pretty angry. Why did this have to happen now? What the hell man?! My manager is a dick! Blah, blah blah. All the advice in the world tells you that you shouldn’t freelance until you’re ready and have a sturdy nest egg to sit on etc. Sure would be great if the world worked like that all the time. But sometimes the universe likes to be kind of a dick and do annoying things like “challenge” you. Anger can be good though if it can be channeled effectively. Not: “Screw my manager, he’s a dick.” More: “Screw my manager, I’ll show him!!” Use the anger but be careful not to let it control you. That will lead to the dark side.
Stage 3: Bargaining
Yep, one week after I got the word of the pay cut I tried to squeeze a few hours out of the failure. It didn’t work of course. Bargaining, almost never works because if you’re “bargaining” you’re already in a weaker position. Among equals it is known as “negotiating” or from a position of power “demanding” or “extorting”. “Bargaining” often doesn’t bode well for the person involved.
Freelancing is a scary proposition so it’s only natural for someone to try and secure themselves before they go out there and leap into the open. Cliché about skydiving without a parachute. The only bargains you should look for while freelancing is on food and supplies because money’s gonna be tight!
Stage 4: Depression
To get a little serious here for a moment, there is a good chance that I have a mild case of clinical depression. Or maybe I’m just a mopey fuck more often than I should be. Point is, though you won’t see my story turned into an after-school special I did engage in a lot of self-destructive behavior. Part because that was what I was conditioned to believe was required of “an artist” and part because it was easier than coming to terms with my short-comings as a human. However, I’m coming up on one year sober this New Years and it feels pretty good to be able to say that. I still get down though, that is perhaps a natural part of being human. Though I somehow doubt the ancient hunter gatherers got “bummed out” way back in the day. Too busy worrying about getting eaten by a lion or some crazy shit.
I keep saying “had my hours cut” in reference to my job but to be honest it sure felt like getting fired I tell you what. Really only the second time that’s happened to me in my life and it wasn’t much easier than the first time. Failure never tastes good. It’s like pouring gravy on an ice cream sundae. Doesn’t sound good, does it? On some turkey and stuffing sure it adds to the flavor. I guess that would be your enemy’s life right there.
Anyway, weird analogies aside failure can make you sad and that’s OK. What is not OK is letting that prevent you from trying to succeed somewhere else. Find an ice cream sundae with some chocolate sauce on it. That’s good shit right there. Maybe add some butterscotch if you’re feeling crazy.
Stage 5: Acceptance
The last and final stage is the hardest to achieve of course. Perhaps, in some way that was the whole point of me writing this post. I’m going to have to accept that this is now my life at least in the short term. If I’m going to succeed I’ll have to work hard at it and not slack off so damn much. No going a whole month without posting, doing something every day that advances my goals. Hustle my ass off to make sure I can pay the rent. I’m lucky enough to have some fall back cash squirreled away in the states but it won’t last forever. Here I’ve got about three months of back up and there really isn’t that much I need to make up in terms of income. Right now there are a lot of heavy things on my mind and it seems hard. Maybe I’ll fail and have to take some job cold calling people to see if they want better jobs than I’m likely to ever achieve. Or maybe I’ll succeed and live a rock star life in a penthouse in downtown Tokyo and be able to afford a cocaine habit. (Not that I want to do cocaine, I just want the income to afford a habit because that shit is expensive. I’d probably spend it on video games actually.)
So stay tuned, hopefully things will look up. Should be an interesting ride. Maybe, hope so.
Oh man I’m doomed…