Monday, January 23, 2012

The Frustrations of Freelancing

Last year, I forsook my sense of obligation to get an office job and began freelancing, starting my own creative services business. Instead of coping with it as a necessary discomfort, I embraced the fact that I just didn’t fit into conventional corporate roles and ran with what felt natural and rewarding. I opted for personal productivity and the pursuit of an ambitious goal -- and time to really live life -- over a steady paycheck.

That being said, freelancing is not all peaches and cream. Here’s why.

1) Dealing with strangers. There’s a reason that parents tell their children not to talk to strangers -- they can be batshit crazy. For example, below are excerpts from phone conversations I had with a client.

Phone Call #1
Guy: “Heyheyheyhey, maybe you could help me out.”
Me: (pause) “Um... with... more work?”
Guy: “No, maybe you could come live in my house.”
Me: “I probably shouldn’t make that commitment without talking to my husband first.”

Phone Call #2
Guy: “Hey, do you want to come with me to Fort Worth,Texas?”
Me: “Um, no thank you. I’ve been to Fort Worth and have no desire to ever go back.”
Guy: “Oh, ok, well not Fort Worth, what about DC?”
Me: “No, that’s OK. About the job...”

2) It’s feast or famine. It never fails: I’ll get nothing at all one week, and way too much the next. Then again, when famine rolls around, I have plenty of time to cook, read books, make art, and watch movies... and somehow, those things feel like they waste much less time than if I were slave to a time clock and clad in business casual.

3) Not getting paid. People seem to believe that services are free once they're completed, since you can't repo a digital file. Now, to be fair, some clients are prompt with payment, and for that they have my undying appreciation. But others, well they’re just liars. Never believe the words “Your check’s in the mail,” or, “Oh, um, I’ll look into that,” when a fee-dodging client accidentally answers your 17th call and panics when you ask where your money is. If you think you can trust someone (they seem sweet, polite, amiable), DON’T. If you’re positive you can’t trust the rude, abrasive weirdo, don’t be so sure; they’re often the ones who actually hold up their end of the deal. (But seriously, don’t trust them either.) I’m trying to adjust my policy to compensate for this risky environment, short of establishing mafia connections. Don’t underestimate deposits, advance payments, and signed contracts. Sometimes, I find it's best to treat the payment terms like a hostage/ransom situation -- with a quick and ruthless swap.

Anyway, all in, it beats the hell out of being confined to a cubicle waiting for 5 every day. It’s well worth it, but whether it can pay the rent may vary from month to month.

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