Please don’t pity me when I tell you that I’m freelance. Seriously, my career and my entire life has never been better.
Freelancing is equivalent to professional freedom. And I honestly wouldn’t trade places with my employed equivalents if you paid me double what you earn. Actually, I’m probably already earning double what you are, without leaving my house.
The pity talk sounds like this: ‘Oh, I tried freelancing once and it was so hard, so I took a paid role.’ Or, ‘Wow, is there enough work out there as a freelancer, how do you survive?’, or this from a regular editor: ‘What are you hoping to do after freelancing?’
Honestly, you’ve got it all wrong. Freelancing means I get to work on projects I want to work on for the clients I want to work for. For example, I recently took on an editorship as part of my freelance workload, which I’m loving. I said yes when I was offered the role because the client is really fun to work with, they value my experience and input and I enjoy the work.
Like so many Australian creatives, I worked in-house as a journalist for many years, though craved a freelance life. Eventually, I worked up the courage to walk out on that corporate job to pursue a lifestyle do what I love, for clients that value my work.
And no, that doesn’t mean I earn peanuts. In fact, my earnings are significantly higher, and grow every year.
I’m also one of the only working parents at the school gate five days a week to greet my beloveds. I don’t need after school care. No offence, corporate Mums, but I’ve worked bloody hard to build up my freelance business, and it feels awesome to be exactly where I’ve worked so hard to be – I’ve got incredible clients, and professional freedom. And I get to wear jeans every day.
Freelancing has shaped big decisions in our lives, too. I’m so sure that I’ll never work in an office again that when we bought a new house a few years ago, we looked out for a place that allowed me to have my own office space separate to the house. We purpose-built my office, which gives me the all-important division between home and work. I unlock my office door with butterflies in my tummy, eager to get started on the assignment in front of me, looking forward to the peace and quiet that only a solo work environment can offer. And excited to see what opportunities come my way today.
Plenty of other talented creatives are working freelance in Australia these days, too.
One talented freelancer I’ve known a few years is at the top of his game professionally. He departed a high profile role after spending his entire adult life working for one of the country’s biggest newspaper publishers. He was keen to give the freelance life a go to see if it fitted, and knew within the first month he’d made the right decision.
He picked up a couple of ongoing clients that pay most of bills right away, and still had the capacity to pick up some ad hoc work.
“I’m actually on talking rather than sniping terms with my spouse, and I feel happier and vastly more in control – whereas I had always suspected that the life of a freelancer would be the complete opposite,” he reveals.
“Yes there are peak loads and competing priorities, but certainly no more arduous than the role I left behind. You do lose a few of the institutional perks – annual and sick leave, but not having to commute to work every day and having total control over my own schedule more than makes up for that.”
We won’t reveal names, but you should know he’s vastly happier now. “There’s no begging for a pay increase every year (um, inflation), and trying to justify your worth, only to be knocked back. You can diversify your skills and service offerings without having to try to negotiate more responsibility (and pay) in your role.
“If I want a pay rise, I don’t have to go cap in hand to a boss and be told “there’s no more money”, or worse, that I’m not worth that much. Now that I’m freelance, I just have to lift my rates, find a better paying client. In other words, I control what I earn, and that’s a good feeling.”
Another creative type I know pretty well was employed for four years, and hated the schoolyard mentality of full-time employment, with a boss at the helm.
“Now that I freelance, I could never go back to being an employee. That shitty commute in traffic, that ‘employee’ mentality, having to deal with bullying and people who were rude to be, and feeling like a school child that has to sit in the one chair from 9am until 5pm. Even getting in trouble if you arrive late or leave early, even if you finish your workload for the day. I could go on and one. I liken employment to jail.”
Another talented freelancer works nights here and there to service her diverse portfolio of clients, topics and companies, which gives her the professional diversity she had craved when employed.
Another freelance mate started freelancing on maternity leave, and admits there’s definitely some condescension from people who pat her on the back with a “good on you for getting yourself a little hobby” comments.
“Whatevs, I’m busting my hump and this is a real business, I’m earning great money, and I bloody love getting into my office, not that you’d care to ask how it’s going, mate,” she says.
The other perception is that when you start freelancing, that you’re starting from zero, another points out.
“I’ve worked for almost two decades in my field, and it just so happens that now I’m sending the invoices out and choosing who I work for, which feels amazing.”
Others agree that working part-time hours and earning the same money as your full-time colleagues is pretty amazing. And doing those hours whenever you want, wherever you want is incredibly liberating.
So please, don’t pity me when I tell you I’m freelance. Instead, try and understand that not everyone is cut out for a life in an office taking orders from the same boss every day, and only taking a break when I’m told I can. And no, I’m not twiddling my thumbs waiting for your email or call. I’m getting on with the projects that excite me. Want to pick my brains about how to build a freelance career? Get in line.
And trust me. When I tell you I freelance, you don’t need to shed a tear for me, I’m doing just fine, thanks. Actually, I wouldn’t want to trade places with you in your employed position for all the tea in China.
*This post was first published on Flying Solo.