Let me first begin by saying that I in no way regret my choice to start freelancing.
*I mean, it was less of a choice and more of a destination I found myself in and decided to give it that name, but you get my drift*
But there is a side to freelancing and self-employment that the Internet doesn’t see. A lot of people ask me about going freelance and how I manage, and usually I paint it in a nice glossy light. “It’s great, I get to choose my own working pattern, I don’t have to get up early…Lalala”. And whilst all of that is true, there is another side to my employment choice that many people don’t see…
There is no such thing as a day off
I mean, yes OF COURSE I could just decide, “You know what, it’s a nice sunny day today. I don’t feel like doing any work”. And I can, I have about 80% freedom to do that throughout most of my work. But there’s this cheeky little catch to that… MY ASS DOES NOT GET PAID.
The thing with being freelance is that there’s no holiday pay, no annual leave, and LOL no workplace pension. And whilst I love the fact that I can say “Hey, I’m gonna keep the first week in August clear so I can have some time off”, I also have to factor in the fact that I will not be paid diddley squat for that a week. But o2/Tesco/BP/Pret/Boots/Admiral still want their money, so I have to rebalance my spending before and after to allow for it.
The irregular pay struggle is real…
This is the bit about freelancing that most people struggle with. “But how do you know how much money you’ll have?” I don’t. So months are great, and some months are shit. I suppose, because I’ve never been well-off, I know how to survive on £5 for the week. My priorities become petrol and my phone bill, because those two things are essential to me making any money in the first place. I also know that money comes and goes, so when it comes, hey, let’s book Amsterdam. And when it doesn’t, don’t even bother clicking on that ‘10% off at Boohoo.com’ link, girl. It ain’t gon’ happen today.
People rarely appreciate what you do
Through no fault of their own, though. The kids I tutor only see me as a tutor. Artists only see me as a sound engineer. Agencies only see me as a brand ambassador or merchandiser. Only my mom sees me for what I really do, and my boyfriend is lucky if he sees me at all. Because I don’t work for one person, there’s a tendency for people to be fickle with their commitments to me. So if a session or a campaign gets cancelled last minute, to them, it’s no big deal. To me, that’s not only a whole days work worth of pay I’m losing, it’s the inability to then book anything else to replace it. Which leads me on to…
People think my time is free
This really needs to stop. I don’t know where this idea comes from that people who work in the creative sector are happy to trade their hard earned skills and expertise for an old bag called experience and a cheese sandwich, but it needs to go. I paid for a degree (well the debt is in my name at least), I pay for equipment, for petrol, for data, hell I got my ass out of bed this morning. What makes you think I’d do that for free? And yes, I do do what I do for the love, but baby girl, love doesn’t pay my bills.
Your work is never done
I always think the best thing about working 9-5 is that, come Friday at 4pm, you can rightfully say “Yep. That’s it. I’ve worked hard this week. I deserve this glass of wine and ASOS spree. I did 37.5 hours this week. I’ve earned it.”. Even if 10 of those hours were spent dossing by the photocopier, it’s still assumed that you’re allowed to have Saturday and Sunday to spend at your leisure. This does not occur when you’re self employed. For the main reason that, you are your own boss. So you know how much work there is left to do. And you know that you’re the only one there is to do it.
I can’t tell you how many times I feel like I don’t work hard enough. Like I don’t put in enough effort, enough time, enough dedication. Sure, I stayed up till midnight doing invoices, but I could have stayed up till 1am finishing off that blog post. I could have spent less time sat in my car in Tesco car park eating a rushed sandwich and set off quicker to the next job. I could have avoided that traffic if I didn’t need to eat. I could have spent more time working if I didn’t need to sleep. I could have done more. I should have done more. You see, this is why you’re broke, because you don’t work hard enough. Why don’t you work harder??
Yes. I realise how ridiculous this sounds. I can hear my mother’s voice telling me “Kimberley. Sit down and eat your dinner, and then go to bed. You’re spreading yourself too thin.” But you see, freelance life can be a bit of a game. A chase to the top of this never ending to-do list where there is no prize. A game where you are your only competition, and where the end-goal is an illusion. An Insta-grammed illusion.
And I just think anyone dreaming of becoming self-employed should be aware that whilst it is one of the most flexible, enjoyable and rewarding career choices, it’s not all late brunches and sitting in your pyjamas all day, even if that’s what it may look like. It’s hard work, just like any other job.
The only way to win the game of freelance life is to decide when enough is enough. When it’s time for bed, and when the rest can wait till tomorrow. Because in all truth and honesty, that’s why we all became freelance in the first place, isn’ it?