Thursday, May 19, 2016

The truth about freelancing

People tend to think freelancers work in their pajamas. I’m sure some do, along with wearing bunny slippers. When I moved to New Hampshire, I was told most neighbors worked in their underwear. At home, I assumed.

Maybe that’s why I returned to the Philadelphia area quick enough to get my old phone number back. In New Hampshire, I had a corporate job. In Philadelphia, I turned freelance writer. Now that it was possible to work in my PJs, I wasn’t going to let that happen.

Years of answering to a higher manager left an indelible imprint on my work ethic. For me, work = getting dressed, although not necessarily in business attire. Every day can be Casual Day; forget about waiting until Friday. There also are times when morning workout wear carries the day because client calls and deadlines push back a shower and change of clothes until evening. Timing doesn’t matter. I work out; I get work done; and I get cleaned up, eventually.

The “free” part of freelancing translates into freedom to set my own schedule. This flexibility is crucial when juggling projects and client commitments. I may schedule a 10 a.m. call on Tuesday, but my client’s priorities can change in an instant – and often do. Some calls are rescheduled once, twice, third time’s the charm.

Projects may start with tight deadlines but proceed in fits and starts, awaiting client input or executive reviews. Some interviewees agree to participate in a story, but rethink their involvement. If I’m lucky, they let me know their change of plans. If not, I'll eventually get the hint after too many emails and calls go answered.

People tell me they often think about becoming a freelancer, but fear a lack of discipline. The draw of distraction would be too strong, they say. Netflix instead of networking. Playing instead of planning. Chats with friends instead of calls with clients.

I admit there are moments when work isn’t working for me. Either I persevere or schedule a break. It helps to remember life as a freelancer is fluid. Deadlines shift. Scheduled meetings are rescheduled or cancelled. Last-minute projects surface. And long-planned projects evaporate.

That’s the reality and the potential of freelancing. Any inconvenience is a small price to pay for the freedom of being my own boss.

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