Taken the freelance plunge and fallen hard? *A fresh perspective on freelance life*
The call to freelance life is rarely taken lightly. There are often endless conversations before you even consider it. Hours of mulling over inner dialogue and a confronting analysis of the cold hard facts, “Can you even afford it?”.
I wanted something more out of my work, and I needed greater flexibility with my three young children. The truth is, it’s borderline impossible to find a family-friendly marketing communications position, in Melbourne. Positions that offer flexible hours, unlimited sick leave (because we all know we’ll need it with three children) and potential for growth.
I yearned for more creative freedom, more face-to-face client interaction and much more job satisfaction. I wanted to love what I did professionally, but also be present and involved in my children’s lives.
When I was working in the city, I disliked the rushing, the early morning tears, the tantrums and the late-night quick dinners, because we were too exhausted to care. My mind was a constant frazzle, I hated the rat race and I wanted to get off the hamster wheel and enjoy this incredible life.
For months my husband and I toyed with the idea of starting up a small business, amusing each other with branding ideas, business names and strategies. It was a fun concept and over time it became less funny and much more realistic.
I’m not a risk-taker, but I’m also not a conformist. So, freelance life actually made perfect sense for our young family and me. It meant I could earn an income doing what I love and still be a very active parent in our children’s lives, win-win!
I could skip the long commute. Eliminate before school care drop-offs. Be around after school to chat with the children about their day and discuss the *big* issues. The best part, the children were able to slow down too.
Now, in theory, it sounds incredible. And, for the most part, the family side of things, it is. But, nothing really can prepare you for small business life. It’s not all sunshine and happy yellow birds at Yellow Canary HQ.
The reality is, starting out is tough, really tough. And, a year in, I can honestly say, the highs are high, and the lows are low. At times you’ll be comfortably busy, cruising through your day with a consistent and steady stream of projects to complete. Clients are reaching out and work is rolling in. Life’s good!
Then you’ll have days where you’re so busy you’ll need to work in the evening to meet deadlines. You’re both energised and tired at the same time. And, when it’s quiet, the self-doubt dialogue begins. You’ll feel it creep into your thoughts, destructively wreaking havoc with your business aspirations and goals, and you’ll need to use all of your strength to ignore it.
Without a reliable stream of income, you’ll need to budget and plan. This in itself can be stressful and exhausting. Some months you might make a few thousand dollars, other months, none. Being financially savvy and monitoring expenditure is the only way to successfully run a small business and maintain sanity.
This aspect of small business can be very difficult with a young family with changing educational and medical needs. You’ll need to dig deep and push through by actively pursuing new leads and building meaningful relationships with existing clients.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle any freelancer will face, is their own self-doubt. Moments of feeling inadequate, incapable and uncertain. With no colleagues around to pump up your tyres or managers to endorse your expertise, you have to become the sole driver of your thoughts and direction.
It’s an extremely tough and adventurous step to take at times, especially when the doubts kick in, but when you come out the other side, it’s extremely rewarding and fulfilling. You’ll gain an overwhelming sense of confidence in your strengths and capabilities, the kind of knowledge only someone who’s taken the freelance journey would truly understand.