Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Succesful freelancing

I´m a die-hard freelancer, and even though I bitch about crazy deadlines and juggling several projects at once or late payments, I would really never trade it for a 9-5 job. I´m probably just wired differently, the kind of person who has tried to have a “secure” job and has quit before they could even consider firing me! Just not cut out for that. I´m a professional gig-hustler and have been so for 27 years. Ouch!

I know uncertainty, high demands and sometimes poor pay, tight deadlines, sleepless nights and sleeping in. But freelancing has always given me the flexibility, especially since the Big Bang of this brave new world - the Internet - of taking my work wherever I go. I remember the days of couriers who delivered manuscripts to my home, where I started out translating and adapting scripts of TV sitcoms many a year ago. I would – get this – type the adaptation on a manual typewriter. Eek! If I made mistakes, I used white-out and sometimes had to re-type a whole page out AND use carbon paper for copies. When I was done, I would jump in the car, public transportation or walk to the production company with a box filled with hard copies of my work and hand over my invoice. If I survived that, freelancing in an Internet era is a walk in the park, really!

My point is you can make a living freelancing. Of course since this nice recession caught us all with our pants down, it´s been a tad challenging, and that´s a huge understatement. Yet, with a little help from my friends and family, big guts, and the disposition to be as flexible as a circus acrobat, I´ve managed to keep on truckin´ solo, which helps me be closer to my kids and feel happier than if I had to clock in at a job every day.

Some tips for others out there doing this freelancing dance:

- Underpromise and overdeliver. I used to be the one who met the craziest deadlines, and one day I realized I didn´t really HAVE to. I´m fast, but now I keep that a secret.

- Be willing to adapt your skills to new markets. I have translated scripts, adapted scripts, written articles for magazines, freelanced as a journalist, ghostwritten, coached people in writing, conducted writing workshops and seminars, worked as an interpreter, written blogs for pay, text for websites, you name it. If my skills allow for it and that´s what the market needs … I will do it.

- Before you are done with a project, let your clients know that you are about to be available. Do not assume they will call you when they need you. People forget. That kind of regular contact has procured me work.

- If you cannot or won´t do a certain gig, pass it on to a colleague. Your client will thank you and so will your colleague who will hopefully sometime return the favor. It usually happens that way, or at least in my case it does.

- Don´t undersell yourself (I´ve been guilty of that one, and lived to regret it). A job well done deserves to be well-paid. If you want to do a favor, fine, but don´t work yourself to death for peanuts. It really is not worth the drain, trust me. The energy you waste with this, you can put into finding better paid gigs or catching up on sleep!

- Give people a hand. Don´t put on airs, and don´t be cut-throat. There really is room for everyone and if you are good at what you do, it will show. Besides, if you are a nice person, you will get more work than those who will kill for a gig.

- Understand free-lancing is a lifestyle. You really have to be self-motivated and dig it. For me the alternative (a regular job) is so unpleasant, that I have no choice!

Any other ideas?


1 comment:

  1. Yea I'm with that. The crime of selling yourself short comes from the fear of asking for more than the public will pay, not making enough sales or that weirdly igrained fear of asking people to dig deep and end up working for little or no profit. Freelancing takes a lot of dedication as the "secure" (an illusion in our age) paycheck gives us a mirage of a safe haven. I identify with the refection of that haven and the desire to climb a higher mountain. Determination is you... Me too. good luck... bah! Luck? You make it yourself. Brendan.