Last week marked exactly one year since I said goodbye to employed life and embarked on what I reckon is probably one of the biggest adventures I’ve been on. Being your own boss, going freelance, going self-employed – no matter how you dress it up it’s pretty scary.
No holiday pay, no sick pay, no guaranteed income, no workmates, no office Christmas Party. Of course there are all the good bits too. No commute, no 9-5pm, no bosses, no colleagues, no office politics, and the freedom to work where you want, when you want, and how you want.
I’ll never forget the first day of freelance life. Sitting down alone in my little home office, looking at the computer and thinking, ‘hmm, what now?’. I guess that was what I hadn’t really anticipated – the fact that when you’re self-employed, it really is just you. You make ALL the decisions. That means that being a freelance journalist isn’t just about writing the stories – it’s finding them, selling them, writing them, billing people for them, and everything else that goes with it.
It’s a steep learning curve, and the past year has been full of highs and lows. Amazing opportunities to write about subjects I hadn’t actually anticipated writing about for publications I wouldn’t have thought of writing for. Trips I would only have dreamed I could go on, interviews I had hoped I’d one day be able to do but didn’t really think I’d get the chance, spoken in front of crowds of people, helped people, and the highly gratifying reward of doing what I love and still managing to pay the bills.
And along with all that, a flexibility that has made not only my work life, but my personal life, all the better. So few people – my husband included – have straight Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm jobs these days, so having the freedom to fit around that can be a real game-changer when it comes to feeling like you actually get time with family.
Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses. I’ve worked longer hours than I’ve ever worked. I’ve been ignored more times by editors than I ever thought I would. I’ve been turned down for work, I’ve had to turn fun stuff down in favour of work, and I’ve juggled things like I’ve never juggled them before amid the crazy fear that tomorrow I might wake up and there won’t be any work – or any money. I’ve learned about spreadsheets, tax and invoicing, I’ve taken myself back to basics and had to learn how to pitch stories and features properly, and I know I’m a long way off being an old-hand at this freelancing game.
A friend of mine recently told me that she thinks being self-employed is often about holding your nerve. Taking the ‘no’ on the chin. Not freaking out if you don’t hear back from someone. Being confident in your own ability and the fact that people will want to hire you for the quality of your work. It’s not an easy thing to do.
But that is the biggest gift freelancing has given me – the chance to prove to myself that yes, I can do this. It’s not easy and it’s a huge challenge, but I’ve discovered sources of support that I didn’t even know were there and, perhaps more importantly, a renewed confidence in myself that had been slowly dwindling for a while which is a wonderful feeling to have.
I’m not done yet. There are people I want to write for, ideas I’ve got, other things I want to achieve professionally, but a year of this strange old freelance life has renewed my confidence in the fact that you can, indeed, chase your dreams and ambitions and while they may not come easily, the journey itself is one hell of a reward.
And so here goes year two – just got to keep my nerve.