And now for Part II of my response to Michael Poh’s “20 Reasons to Say ‘No’ to Freelancing.” As I wrote in Part I, I found that Michael’s perspective was not always reflective of my own twenty-five years as a freelance book indexer, copy editor and proofreader.
In this part, I’ll respond to Michael’s section on “self-traits,” as he calls them. The stuff about us as people that may not be conducive to freelancing, rather than stuff in our environment.
As Michael accurately wrote: “Simply put, if you don’t have what it takes, freelancing will wear you out fast.” Quite so. Freelance work is not for everyone.
9. Distractibility and lack of an organizing principle
I do have problems with this one, I think partly because I’m an extrovert rather than an introvert, so I get uncomfortable in front of the computer by myself. So email and social networking are major distractions. Also laundry and washing dishes. I think folks these days concentrate on online distractions when the old-fashioned ones can be just as compelling. I do agree that multitasking is not actually a virtue for humans (great article from NPR on how our brains really work here). In order to make money freelancing, you will need to create the discipline to focus. In addition, there’s no one else to file things away or take phone calls or do the bookkeeping, so you’ll need to be organized enough to carry it off yourself, or better yet, be able to charge enough for your awesome talent and dedication to delegate these tasks. I am still struggling with doing most of it myself. 🙂
Michael is correct here, also. If you need a supervisor to help you decide what’s more important to work on and get to it, then working alone will be a struggle for you. I use the Things program (alas for Windows users, only for the Mac) to help me prioritize and keep track of projects. But there are comparable programs for Windows, too. I know you’re thinking, oh, I can keep track of everything in my head. Nope. Even if you just make a list in a notebook or calendar, you will need to figure out what to focus on first (see item 9 above), or you’ll miss deadlines and lose clients.
11 and 12. Branding self-worth
Yes, these go hand-in-hand, although Michael separated them. Part of your time will be taken up by presenting yourself to your target market. You are the advertising department, unless you can afford to delegate this task. First, your self-worth has to be high enough that you’re willing to expose your talents to the world without hitting people over the head in your fear of not getting enough work. It’s a delicate balance. Self-worth has to come first. If you don’t believe you are worthy to do the work for someone, it will be a real struggle to create everything from a proper logo to a website, to composing social media posts. Really. Your attitude will be visible, so it better be a good one. And you will have to update your presence and portfolio regularly. It’s not so much about “yelling in their face” about who you are, but just being friendly and consistent. Create value and be visible.
13. Working hard, smart, and passionately
Michael’s right on with this one. A generation or two ago, working hard was almost enough in our American society. In the last forty years, it’s become more important to work smart, to innovate (useful for freelancers), to have the latest in-demand intellectual skill set. But for the rest of the twenty-first century in what I call the new cottage industry economy, it will be most important to work passionately. This has always been an advantage, but now and in the future, even more so. If you want to maintaining that good value I mentioned in the last item, staying interested in your work will be key to your abundance. I’m definitely finding that this is true as I finally get a bit tired of book indexing and copy editing, and am branching out into other aspects of book production, including developmental editing and book design.
14. Surfing the money wave
Michael is also quite right here: If you have deep financial security issues, freelancing will be a challenge. Although job security overall has lessened considerably since I was born (in the 1950s), independent business people’s only job “security” is the fact that they have more than one client. An employee, by definition, only has one. That’s the freelance advantage, but the income is definitely not regular, and your bills still are. So the discipline to set aside a “pad” for those ups and downs will be important to your peace of mind.
15. Freelancing as the easy route
Well, no. Of course not. There’s very little that’s easy, and although there is such a thing as “passive income,” you still have to do work to keep subscriptions going or advertisers paying. It’s an energy exchange, always. The trick to making it “easy” is to do work that you love. You still have to put in effort, but it’s much more pleasurable. 🙂
16. Comfort zone
Comfort zones can be good or not depending on your purpose. If a comfort zone is created out of fear of trying something new that might be better, then, it’s really not that comfortable. There is fear underneath the chair in that cubicle. And oftentimes our comfort zones are blasted away by circumstance anyway. So you might as well take Michael’s advice and be proactive; seek out those new opportunities and stay ahead of the wave.
17. Having it all your own way, myth of
Michael is right that although you may market your own special way of doing things and get some clients because of it, most of the time, you will want to be flexible for the client’s needs (within reason). Freelancing will require tact as well as the setting of boundaries. But that’s also true of employer/employee relationships.
18. Waiting for inspiration
True, this is a luxury for those who don’t need to make a living. This item is also related to number 17; as a freelancer, you will still have “bosses” in a way—your clients. They will have a more limited influence on what you do, but they will expect you to meet deadlines and create based on their expectations and your outline of what you can do.
19. Patience, within limits
Again, this one speaks to your relationship with clients (which is required for that energy exchange so you can eat). You may very well be asked to revise and correct to meet the client’s requirements, but also keep in mind that as the freelance expert in whatever the field is, you can also put limits on the scope of the job up front to make sure you are not exploited. You don’t have to be infinitely patient.
20. Perseverance and passion
Riding the freelancing business wave does require going out there and catching more than one wave a week. First, find what you love to do that can be transformed into a product or service of value to others as well as yourself, then it will be much easier to persevere within your passion. Above all, look around you at what others are creating. Best practices (and cautionary tales) are everywhere for you to learn from. You may think that what you love to do has no value to others, but you are likely wrong about that. Most creations have some potential following if they are pursued with a dedication to quality. Go, let your tribe know you’re here creating just what they are looking for.