I started this article with a laugh, so I implore you to do the same. Yes. Right now. You don’t need a reason, just laugh like you mean it. Have you? Good. Don’t you feel better? Anyways, I laughed because I saw the topic and I thought: what better person to be asked to write about freelancing than a freelancer?
Yes, for the most part that’s what I am. That’s how I pay the bulk of my bills, that’s how I’m able to have time to do the things I really want to do – like write twenty bestsellers and the next Oscar-winning script.
So I left a 9 to 5 and took up freelancing mostly for the time. And I must say, it’s been a bumpy ride.
As most freelancers will tell you, the hardest part of freelancing is getting paid. Just so you know, I’m still owed money for jobs I did four years ago. You’d call and text, swear, threaten, and insult, then switch to cajoling, sweet-talking and all sorts just to get that cheque out. Sometimes you get lucky and you’re paid as soon as you’re done; at other times, not so.
There’s also the reality that you’ll appear to be jobless to people around you – your neighbours, landlord and so on. They will wonder why everyone but you goes out in the morning and comes back at night. God help you if your services are mostly required in an industry as crazy as advertising. Then you will be going out when everybody else is coming in, and coming in when everyone else is going out.
To your family, you’re a mostly unambitious person. Why you refuse to do what everyone else does – get a regular job, find someone and get married, and start to manufacture children – is beyond them. It’s worse when you’re the black sheep; they have no expectations of you. You’re the can-anything-good-come-out-of-Israel case study and, therefore, they leave you alone…for the most part.
God help you if you ever have to ask any of them for help.
You’ll probably lose friends too. Sometimes it’s because they also give up on you, but sometimes it’s because your schedules are suddenly different and, therefore, don’t have time to see each other anymore. Sometimes, they don’t understand that you need time away to focus on your hustle so that the story will change…
And just like that, best friends become strangers.
Don’t even think of having a relationship. This is in no way sexist, but the reality is that holding a relationship together while freelancing is relatively easier for a woman than for a man. Think about it. Most times it is expected that a man bears the cost of a date, movies, dinner and what not. Now imagine a freelancer who has had a dry spell for two months, no money coming in and no prospects. As a result of that, you’ve been unable to take your woman out – for two months!
If she doesn’t complain; she’s one of two things:
- A keeper – which means you have to be stupid if you don’t marry or impregnate her
- A cheater – which means she has another guy/guys on the side who are taking care of her needs
Sounds like hell, right? Let’s not even talk about the people who give you jobs like they’re doing you a favour and, therefore, you’re not supposed to ask for money.
For a freelancer, there are bad days, and then, there are really bad days. The type of days you open your eyes and stare holes in the ceiling for hours because you have nothing to do, nowhere to go to. You cannot work on your dreams because there hasn’t been power for twenty-four hours, there’s fuel scarcity and your wallet and bank account boast of one-hundred and twenty naira. The type of days you pray you don’t run into someone you know – or a girl you want. The type of days you choke down your jealousy at the sight of a couple feeding each other ice-cream at the cinema while you tell yourself and whoever cares to listen that you’re single by choice.
But being a freelancer is not all negative.
It teaches you discipline like nothing or no one else can. The fact that your time is yours with no creative director breathing down your neck or supervising you puts a large degree of control in your own hands. You have to consistently deliver on your best work because there’s no one to pick up your slack; no one to cover up for you.
It also puts the challenge of growth and improvement your way. If you’re shy and have a hard time talking in front of people, you most likely will be forced to overcome that handicap as a freelancer – because you sometimes will have to present your own work to the client.
Who will you hide behind?
Being a freelancer is not as great as it sounds – neither is it as bad as it sounds. But before you venture into it, be sure of the why. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself running back to your old job before long.
Here you will get a network of freelancers and freelancing jobs.