The continued trials and tribulations of the whathaveyou…

Part two. The bad.

The trouble with freelancing fulltime is there is no one around to motivate me or assign me work. I have to find work and motivation myself, decide how much it is worth to me, then hope the potential client doesn’t decide I’m too expensive or not good enough.

There are stretches where I have no work to do, then ones where I have a lot of work to do. This inconsistency is stressful at times and when you’re three weeks into a period without any new work, it can start to feel bleak. Should I get a fulltime job? Sure, the reliable money would be welcome, but I struck out on my own because of how awful fulltime employment has been in the past.

So, I hold out and keep trying to find more work.

My trouble is that the more businessy aspects of being a freelance writer are foreign and intimidating to me. Where do I find work? How do I advertise services? How do you maintain cashflow and still invest in your business? Paid advertising is expensive and there are no guarantees of a return. Building a website is easier than it has ever been, but getting people to see it is hard and convincing them to use your services is even harder.

Everyone wants something for nothing too. Creative services are always looked down upon. In a regular business, sales is the glory job. A lot of money is spent recruiting salespeople, paying them base salaries to keep them on board and commissions to keep them trying. Creative work, writing, graphic arts etc… are considered passion projects. That the people doing them are just glad to have something to work on and they don’t care about money. Besides, it’s the work everyone wants to do because everyone can do it. Everyone wants to be creative and get paid for it. If a business isn’t paying enough then they’ll find someone willing to work for less. The fallacy that anyone can write has confronted me at every writing job I have ever had. 

It isn’t a matter of sales being easy; it is emphatically not. That’s where I circle back to – making sales. As a freelancer you’re a one-person business. I can’t get pissy with sales for not finding the right clients and taking all the money. I can’t just indulge the delicate artist within and expect results either. And don’t even get me started on the marketing. This leads to my business being lopsided and it has given me a greater appreciation of how the ecosystem should work. In theory at least. The practicalities are a lot different. When you start a business, you don’t suddenly become awesome at everything. Finding potential clients is one thing, having the confidence to engage with them is another, and actually bringing them on board is something else entirely.

The freedom of working for yourself is much like what I imagine a high-wire trapeze artist feels like. Hanging over the abyss, staring down at the blackness and hoping that somewhere, down there, is a net that will catch me if I slip. Even on a good day, I have to climb up to the wire and stare into the void. Even on a day off, I find myself staring at the void and hoping that something will materialise. That an email will suddenly appear in my inbox and I will have something to arrest my fall.

The continued trials and tribulations of the whathaveyou…

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