Monday, April 9, 2012

Freelance Files | The halfway point (an honest look)

Depending on when you start counting, I've been at this freelancing thing for about eight months. Goodness, that seems like a long time.

How's it working out for me?

In some ways, it's been good. In others, not so much.

By the time this post goes up, it will have been over a week since I first typed out most of it. Since then I've been editing, sleeping on it, editing some more, sleeping on the new versions and debating both internally and externally about how much to put out there. When your professional life is on the Internet, it's important to filter what you say. I still believe that, but I also believe in being human and allowing myself a measured level of vulnerability.

A lot of bloggers have gone freelance lately in a variety of fields. Looking in from the outside, things look so hunky dory, and, to be honest, though I keep a smile on my face and look on the bright side, freelancing has been a less than rosy road. Lest anyone think freelancing is super-easy or that bloggers are super-humans, I'm throwing (some, not all) caution to the wind and letting you in on my true freelance experience so far.

So here goes. Let's start on a positive note.

The good:
  • My flexible schedule has allowed me to take on some volunteer and pure pet projects, such as Dress for Success Miami (where I'm also on the board), more online writing and helping friends with their nonprofits. Though I don't get paid, this has exposed my work to new networks here in Miami, though I have yet to really foster those into business opportunities.
  • Added one new client to my paid work (which also includes two ongoing contracts and a freelance editing client).
  • My apartment is cleaner than ever.

The not-so-good:
  • Fear. I am an introvert. I have major anxiety when it comes to new situations and putting myself out there. It used to be a paralyzing hide-in-a-hole-for-days/weeks/months and avoid-all-human-interaction kind of fear, but now it's a slightly watered down version of that. The computer is a great facade to hide behind. What has been most helpful in the past is having a few folks I trust as sounding boards, and I'm still building that group here in Miami.  
  • Lack of direction. What brings in most of my small freelance income (grants) is not what I was educated in or wanted as a career goal (magazine journalism) or what my resume shows as my strength (nonprofit communications). I truly enjoy all three of these fields, but I wonder whether I need to narrow my focus. And then there are the things I would love to do someday, like write a book or make things with my hands for a living. How should my profession and my passion relate to one another now and how will they in the future?  
Side note: One or two people asked about freelance and finances in the reader survey, and my answer doesn't add up to a full post, so I thought I'd address it here. One of the reasons I went freelance was because my husband got a full-time job; previously he was a graduate student/TA while I worked full time. Because we basically just switched roles, our household finances have not changed—we make about the same overall, spend about the same and save about the same. No real adjustments there.

When I originally decided to freelance, I gave myself a timeline: one year and then it was decision time. Either commit to this freelance thing or get off my butt and go back to full-time work. My random indicator of "success" was going to be whether I could make 50% of my previous full-time income through freelance work (so far I'm at 21%) . I have no idea whether this is realistic or not (any freelancers remember how year one went?), so I may choose another indicator when the time comes. Since I started in August, I'm giving myself until this August (mid or late). Five months to go.

I may not be where I wanted to be at this point in freelancing. But I do know my biggest challenge: me. No one and nothing else is responsible for my lack of progress. I'm the only one that I can make any changes here. It's slightly depressing, but at the same time, completely empowering.

The first step to overcoming a problem is admitting you have one, so this is my confession. And since I have yet to solidify a professional sounding board here in Miami, I hope you don't mind acting as one in the meantime.

Time to get to work.

9 comments:

  1. Have you read "My So-Called Freelance Life" by Michelle Goodman? I finished it over the weekend, and I already feel much more focused in my work as a freelancer (even though it's my side job).

    On a different note, it sounds like you are doing a lot of great projects in the nonprofit sector, and that's definitely something to be excited about! (And I'm jealous!)

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    1. I haven't (but just bought it to read this week). I'll take any motivation I can get. Thanks for the rec! (And I absolutely recognize what a luxury it is for me to be able to take on volunteer/pro bono projects...it's been a really good way to find my niche in a new city, too!)

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  2. Great post, Angeline. Have you read any of Kathleen's posts about freelancing on Jeremy&Kathleen? She was doing the freelance thing alone, and she recently (well, like a year ago by now!) started an agency with her sister, Braid Creative. Anyways, some really good insight into dealing with some of the fears/obstacles you've mentioned in your post!

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    1. I've never even heard of that blog, but I just subscribed...looking forward to learning from one who's been where I am!

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  3. Thanks for answering the question on finances Angeline!

    I would really love to do freelancing full-time, although I'm already doing outsourced brand management and copywriting in my spare time.

    Right now, I'm the one with the full-time job with some freelancing on the side, while my husband is the one who does freelance work/brand consultancy full time. I actually enjoy the discipline of my day job (legal) while dabbling in the creative aspect of my freelance work. I feel as if I"m getting the best of both worlds, so I guess there's no need to rock the boat for now.

    Thanks for the insight on what it's like to be on "the other side" :)

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    1. Hi Jill! I was in a similar boat before this (I've been doing freelance grantwriting for a few years now, even when I was at my day job), but freelancing full-time is definitely different! I really enjoyed doing both, too...like you said, it is the best of both worlds. :)

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  4. I am really glad you wrote this. As somoeone who thinks about going freelance some times, I appreciate your honesty. I have done some work from home before and even just part-time freelancing but I have never done it as my only source of income. It seems scary but you brought a lot of insight to the topic.

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  5. I was wondering how you would measure success. I think moving to a new city and state didn't help your freelance abilities because you had to make all new connections. Some people move cities and it takes forever to get a full time job. I can't wait until August when you determine what your measure of success really is and if you decide to work full time or stay freelancing.

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  6. Very informative blog!!
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