While the lifestyle can seem totally open ended, you have to know how to protect yourself to really thrive.
The modern work lanscape is one that is constantly changing. Today’s office is no longer one filled with cubicles and fluorescent lights, and more and more people are striking out on their own and joining the freelancing world in order to have more control over their careers. PSFK shares stories from various freelancers, who comment on what they know now that they wish they’d known when they started out.
In her 1970’s anthem ‘Bobby McGee,’ that pays homage to the bohemian lifestyle, Janis Joplin sings “Freedom’s just a another word for nothing else to lose.” Even though the doomed singer was merely encouraging the masses to cut loose a little, if you are a freelancer, you actually have everything to loose if you aren’t savvy. These things can include money, health care—even your sanity. Unlike your friends and colleagues in a regular 9–5, your life is a daily balancing act, a ratio of time/potential income, with very little margin for error. While most people imagine a freelancer’s life as sleeping in, wearing sweats all day, and watching marathon rounds of Homeland, the truth is a freelancer’s job is just as hard as those with a more concrete schedule. Having worked as a freelancer for five years, I always have 10, if not 15, things on my to-do list each day. These can involve everything from writing an article, to answering emails from clients, to simply remembering to pick up my dry cleaning. To put it bluntly, freelancing is not for the faint of heart. While I wouldn’t take back a second of my freelancing career, and it’s true my years working the hustle has taught me invaluable life lessons, there were plenty of times when I wished there was some sort of guidebook I could consult to learn the ropes. Things as important as how to create a professional invoice and setting a basic rate, to more social things such as the best places to meet other freelancers.
My editor recently turned me onto The Freelancer’s Bible, put out by Sara Horowitz of The Freelancer’s Union. Skeptical, I flipped it open and was delighted to find a wealth of insider knowledge contained in its pages. As I thumbed through, I began to see how Horowitz had astutely captured the key aspects of freelancing, its trials and tribulations, and how workers can best maneuver a difficult system. While things like intuition and networking are hard to teach, concepts like negotiating contracts and enforcing proper boundaries with clients-practices many people take years to master—are all neatly described and indexed inside the book.
Though I can now look back and see why freelancing was such a good fit for me, I had never anticipated such an untraditional career path. When I first started writing in 2008, I had just moved to NYC with only a desire to work in the media to guide me. I’d always been fascinated by different forms of communication, having started a zine in high school and having worked at the local radio station in college. I had so many passions and interests that freelancing provided the best way to pursue new skills, and to see what potential career avenues existed, without having to limit my opportunities.
Even though I’ve been blessed to have consistent employment, I’ve also had to work hard to have my potential contributions recognized by various organizations. It was only through the critical help and advice of many much more experienced colleagues that I was able to get to the point that I’m at today. Seasoned as I am, even now I still find myself with questions about how to be a better freelancer—questions that I was delighted to find directly addressed in The Freelancer’s Bible.
While I’ve gotten to do some amazing things as a freelancer I never would have been able to do if I was full-time, things like flying off at a minute’s notice to meet the President of Iceland to talk about social media, or going sand duneing in Qatar, I’ve also known what it’s like to feel confused about my rights, and to hear the familiar “the check’s in the mail” over and over. Whether you’re currently a freelancer, know someone else who is thinking about becoming one, or even have a loved one with dreams of ‘going it alone’, give them this book. Inside is one of the most honest depictions I’ve ever seen of the freelancing lifestyle, along with the all the basic tools and references they’ll need to navigate this career path. Then you should give them a coffee and a high five, because damn if this isn’t a challenging, thrilling, occasionally terrifying, and ultimately satisfying way to live.
PSFK has partnered with the Freelancer’s Union to bring you a content series written by freelancers for freelancers, about how to succeed in the business – whether you’re just starting out, or are a seasoned member of the community. Click here to buy the book.