To freelance or not freelance, that is the question…
…well for me, it is.
By Claire Gardiner
And it’s a question that an increasing number of us might be asking, given the repeated rounds of redundancies affecting large swathes of the media, particularly in Wales.
When I was made redundant a few years back, I made a conscious decision NOT to go down the freelance route, simply because I would have felt the decision had been forced on me rather than being one that I had consciously made. I also didn’t feel psychologically ready to make the leap into self-employment, and quite frankly hadn’t saved up a sufficient financial safety blanket to keep the bills paid while I built up a client base.
Two years on, after two demanding jobs with hefty commutes, the time felt right and I quit my job – the first scary step towards my new life. And yet, I couldn’t quite fully commit to the idea.
On the one hand, I love that being freelance can give me back control over my life, my hours. Flexibility to work when I want (if I can get it, of course!) – or not at all, should I be lucky enough to choose. It helps me manage my long-term health condition too, reducing stress not just from the job itself but from having to ask for things like time off for hospital appointments. And the variety of work it enables me to do – and the freedom to say ‘no’ to the things you don’t want to do (don’t try that one with the boss!) – is so refreshing.
But where’s the routine and structure to my day? Yes, I’m a perfectionist who constantly pushes myself, but even I struggle to stay focused and disciplined when the distractions of home are all around me.
In my defence, it’s difficult to explain to family that you are indeed working from home, not just dossing around, so no, you can’t ‘just call the builders’ or do the food shop or stick a few hundred loads of washing on. My father didn’t help matters when he referred to me as ‘unemployed’ – and a freelance friend suffered the same indignity from a shop assistant when she asked what she did for a living. Still, it’s embarrassing when a double-glazing salesman calls at two in the afternoon and you’re still in your PJs…
No one in my family has ever worked for themselves so I’m in uncharted territory. A voice in my head keeps telling me to stop being irresponsible and go get myself a proper job with a regular income and ‘benefits’.
But nothing I’ve experienced previously has matched the sheer buzz of securing a freelance contract, negotiating a decent day rate and knowing that I have won that work for myself – a modern-day (female) hunter-gatherer mentality, if you like!
A recent workshop run by the excellent David Thomas for NUJ Training Wales really bolstered my confidence and gave me that all-important kick-up-the-bum I needed to take things a step further and believe in my ‘saleability’. I discovered that the other delegates had gone through similar emotions. I learned some useful advice – from the nuts and bolts of the finance side of being a sole trader to networking, thinking of yourself as a business and how to get organised.
I’ll share the wisdom of a more seasoned freelancer when I told her about my misgivings. She said: ‘Just keep telling yourself you have a proper job… and enjoy the best of both worlds!’
Maybe this freelance lark is for me, after all.
Claire Gardiner is a Freelance Journalist.