Freelancing: One Year

freelance infographic

So, one year. I’m sitting here, staring down my blank screen, and I’m not even quite sure what I want to say about being a freelancer of one year. I think the best way to do it is to use the one tool that’s been the most help to me over this past year: a list.

THE GOOD:

1. I have learned so, so much over the past year. Things that used to stress me out, like giving clients estimates, or presenting at meetings, no longer bother me. I’m better at time management, and I’m way better at not letting my work problems leak over into my real life. Another bonus is that I’ve clarified what makes me happy in my job, and I’m getting much better at figuring out if a project will be rewarding for me. If a client asks me a question, I’m much more likely to know the answer, and I’m refining a working process that works for me. Things that were problems last July are not the same problems this July, and it feels good to keep moving forward.

2. My email is not the devil any more. I have a system for dealing with it, and I no longer dread looking at it like I once did.

3. I am more okay with the uncertainty. I am a planner. I do not like it when the plans change, and for important stuff (like, you know, my future) it’s hard for me to not know what will be happening even six months from now. I’m not sure if I ever mentioned this, but my basic plan for life (back in college) was graduate college, get awesome job, move to new city. It was hard to move away from the dream of the awesome job, even though I believe I’m happier where I am now, and it’s been even harder to put off moving to a new city. I’ve lived in Raleigh all my life, and while it will always be my favorite (and I plan on coming back), I also want the adventure of moving to a new city, and really getting to know a new place. Last year I made a rule that I would be moving to a new city (probably Chicago) in early 2013, no matter what. Last month I came to terms with how that was a stupid plan. Now, I have no plan. I know what I want to happen, and I know what I need to work for, but I don’t know what is going to happen next month, much less next year.

This job is not for people who need absolute security. The work changes on a daily basis, you never get paid regularly, and a phone call can derail your whole day. At first, I hated that part, but now I kind of like it. It means that there is a whole world of possibilities out there, and the thought is exhilarating.

4. I get to work on my own terms. If I’m not feeling it in the morning, I don’t have to do anything. If I am on a roll at 7 (which is usually quittin’ time), I can keep going until the work is done. I can work from my couch (like I am right now), in my pajamas, or I can sit at a desk and actually get dressed. I can leave ‘work’ whenever I want, to do whatever I want, and to be honest, I don’t feel like I take advantage of that enough.

5. Finishing a project is so rewarding when I’ve been heavily involved every single step of the way, from the first email from the client to sending off the final deliverables.

6. I learn something every day. This job is incredibly challenging, but the mental/emotional payoff is worth it.

7. My co-workers are all close friends. They also are only with me through g-chat, so it’s like a big design party every day where nobody gets mad if you leave to focus on work.

8. Freelancing has given me the ability to meet all kinds of people that I wouldn’t normally know otherwise. I genuinely like my clients, and the point of view they bring to the table may be different from mine, but I always walk away feeling like my horizons were broadened.

9. I’m a lot more confident than I was last year. It may not always be easy, but I’m doing it, and nobody can take that away from me.

10. I have the time now to pursue new ideas. Having 8 + hours of alone time each day means that this introvert is always at a pretty high level of recharged. I get a lot of ideas that I’m excited about, and I love having the flexibility of schedule to try stuff out – even if it doesn’t always succeed.

THE NOT AS GREAT:

1. It can be lonely working from home alone all day. Sometimes I wish that I had a studio that I could go to, with other freelancers. Lucky for me, things like that exist, so I know that this doesn’t have to be a permanent situation.

2. Criticism is hard. It can be frustrating when I feel like I’m not communicating well with a client – or when an acquaintance acts like this isn’t a real job. My skin is getting thicker, but I need to work on letting the occasional careless comment roll right off my back.

3. I feel really boring a lot of the time. Sometimes I struggle with what to write about on my blog – because there are days that I barely leave the house! When David comes home, I never have amusing anecdotes about what happened at the office, and it is all too easy to fall into a routine of working a lot, eating dinner at home, and going to bed at a reasonable hour. There’s an easy solution to this – do more interesting things – but when all of your friends work 9-5, it can be hard to rally the troops.

4. I’ve had to accept that the progress I’m making will be slow. It just is. I am making progress, and it is so freaking slow. Even though I wish business was booming all the time, and the money was rolling in, and my blog had thousands of readers, and every idea I ever had was super well received because it’s universally accepted that I am a genius, that’s not the way things are right now. I can see myself getting closer to achieving my goals, and maybe next year all of those things will be a reality for me (although I doubt anyone’s going to accept that I’m a genius…) but for now, in the words of Bob, baby steps. They will have to do.

5. Even though I’m getting way, way better, I can still be incredibly disorganized/fall into the procrastination timesuck.  At times like that, it’s helpful to remember that nobody is perfect, and I have come up with a plan: If I can’t focus, I have to get out of the house, and try to reset. I’ve only done it once, but it worked!

So that’s it, a year of freelancing experience condensed into a measly thousand words. I’m so excited to see what the future holds, and to keep sharing my journey with you, my blog friends! Thanks for following along the past year, your encouragement both online and offline really meant a lot to me.

READ THE WHOLE FREAKING STORY HERE:

Day 1 | Month 1 | Month 2 | Month 3 | Month 4 | Month 5 | Month 6 | Month 7 | Month 8 | Month 9 | Months 10 & 11

  • http://shelleyeaster.com Shelley

    Great post — I especially love that infographic! I relate to just about everything on your list. Being a freelancer is so, so different from most people’s lives, and from my old life, it almost doesn’t seem real. 3 months in, and I’m still surprised I don’t have to get up and drive to my office everyday. I really can’t imagine going back to that, this is SO MUCH BETTER! Big congratulations on your 1 year. :)

  • http://aunatureldesign.blogspot.ca/ Michaela {au naturel design}

    That’s so great that you’re tracking the progress so you can spell out your accomplishments. The personal satisfaction/reward you get from completing a project is amazing. Don’t let others get you down, because trust me, everyone is just jealous you don’t have a typical job like the rest of us. Keep up the good work!

  • http://byksenia.com Ksenia

    I am actually jealous :) I have a day time job and at times I wonder if can just quit and start freelancing! Good job on keeping up with your progress and best of luck with your future projects!

    - Ksenia