As i walked to work on a cold boxing day morning at the tail end of 2015, my stomach churning and my mind screeching from all the hungover horrors that were now terrorising it, i had what i believed then, was an epiphany, but what i look back on now, as the booze talking. I wasn't happy, having worked now in a retail environment for three years, my soul had been crushed by rude customers, my bank account still hated me, and i was going to spend my Boxing day, in the company of people mad enough to want to drag their children and significant others around a shopping centre, the day after Christmas. I thought,
"People who would rather spend money with their loved ones, rather than time, real quality time, are cheap. Time is the most precious thing we own, we can't go out and earn more of it, so why waste it? I'd rather waste money, than waste my time "
It was that day that i decided to leave retail, and stop wasting my time, i wanted to take what i love doing most full time, i wanted to be a professional pizza taster..........(Professional Photographer)
Now leaving your job to pursue a freelance career is a big move, i've had people congratulating me, and wishing me luck, and at first i thought "What's the big deal? i'l be fine? it's just like moving from one job, to another"... NO MORGAN, YOU WERE WRONG! After a short time of working for myself, i've already made realisations about the world of self employment, it's pitfalls, it's joys, its Do's and Dont's. When you walk into the world of self employment, you do so pretty much alone, there aren't many immediate resources to guide you, and there isn't a set guide on how to succeed, but you learn quickly, which is the fundamental difference between wether you sink, or swim.
Here are a few things that i've already learnt,
When you work a 9 to 5 job, you have a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly structure. You wake up the same time in the morning, clock in at the same time, head for lunch at the same time, and then clock out. You cherish your weekends, a chance to relax after a week of work, and maybe get some things done around the house or elsewhere. And you push tirelessly through to pay day, at which point the cycle resets, and begins again. This structure is what a lot of people have in their lives, and it works for them, in fact it worked for me for many years! But how do we let go of that structure, now that we are freelancing full time? Well, it's not so much about letting go of that structure, but attempting to take it as a blueprint, and tweak it to suit your work life, and you personal life. You're still going to set an alarm, you're still going to get up out of bed and get dressed, you're still going to eat breakfast, and you're still going to go to work, wether you have a studio or an office, it's important that get up and go, that little voice that says that you could just send those e-mails from your bed, is not your friend, and you need to put it aside to be as productive as possible. You still have to make time to eat, rest and take a break! and you still need to make time for YOU and your loved ones during the week. Now this last part is hard to do when you first start, as you are in that mindset of GIMME GIMME GIMME, and you end up accepting every job that comes your way, without a thought for when you're going to relax, and step away from the camera for a bit. The 9 to 5 structure gives us weekends for a reason, so don't deprive yourself of downtime for the sake of accepting that job, there's usually a little bit of wiggle room for scheduling, and you can make time for it soon after you've relaxed and regained your energy.
The Importance of Personal Projects
This is a big one for me, and it comes back to the tail end of my last point about making time for yourself, when you are freelancing the work you take may not be creatively fullfilling, it will pay the bills but it might not scratch that itch that we all have as creative people, to go out there and make something which inspires, and satisfies you. A personal project doesn't have to be massive and outlandish, it can be as simple as heading out to a great location, and taking some photos, just because you want to. This helps remind us as to why we are doing this, because we love photography! The paid jobs are important, but taking that time to enjoy what YOU love doing, is just as important, as it keeps your passion, from turning into a joyless task.
Know Your Worth And Don't Be Afraid To Ask For It!
One problem that i've had for some time is not knowing my worth, by that i mean that i had no idea what to charge people! This is something that for me has come over time, through taking on different kinds of jobs, and weighing up the different ways of charging a client, whether it's an hourly rate, or a quote for an entire job. Whichever way you do it though, you should never be afraid to ask for what your work is worth, it seems that as creatives we are nailed to the cross of doing free work and working for the "Exposure", but think that a plumber, or a brick-layer, or a lawyer, doesn't get paid in exposure? so why the hell should you? Know your worth, and be bold enough to ask for it, and when you ask for it, be firm, it's a fine line between being firm and being aggressive, and being fair and being a push-over, ask for what you are owed in a straight forward and firm way, and you will get a better reaction than if you send a death threat, or if you tip-toe around it.
Talk to an Accountant
I'm awful at maths, i mean i am just the worst. So when a friend of mine mentioned book keeping and taxes, my head span and i spent the night wide eyed in bed, staring at the ceiling, thinking of pound signs and numbers dancing around me, and occasionally poking with me with a sharp stick with the word "TAX" written on it, and everything that could possibly go wrong (as you do). To hush that worry, i sat down with an accountant and spoke to him about going freelance and what it meant for me in a tax and financial sense. We all have a tendency to put our walls up and pretend to know something just to save ourselves from embarrassment, with this, you have to be as honest as possible, and hold your hands up when you don't understand, as listening now, and learning, will save you a lot of pain down the line when you've not done something right, and the tax man comes knocking. Even if you decided to balance your own books etc, then sitting down with a professional, is still a good idea, as they will be able to make sure that you are doing everything you should be doing, and could very well save you some money.
What's a "day off"?
It's important to take days off, like with any job, but don't kid yourself into taking a week off and then wonder why you have no work scheduled. If you have no work to do, no shoots to prepare for, no edits to do or clients to e-mail back, then you should just go back to bed, and watch Jeremy Kyle in your pants.......NOT!!! When there is no work, then you need to be banging down doors, getting work and staying productive! Whether this means sending out a few hundred e-mails to business' and brands, talking to past clients, or updating your website, it's important that you behave like a professional freelancer, instead of letting that slip, and turn into a lazy couch potato.
It's A Process, Slow Down!
The day after you leave your job, and you sit alone in your house with a half smile on your face, wondering what's next, don't think that all of the right clients are going to smell the blood in the water and come to you all right away, with all their jobs nicely spaced out over the month, allowing you time to catch that movie and a few beers as well as edit your work. Truth is, it takes a while, and it's a process which can come in waves, or come as a slow trickle. Clients build up slowly, you may have a client who you have repeating work for, these clients are what you build yourself up from, the other clients are going to take time to find you, don't let them look too hard, make those connections nice and early, because even if they don't need you right now, they may do in a couple of months time.
Well there's a little bit of what i've learnt, i wouldn't say that i'm any where near the knowledge on this subject that some of my peers are, but we all start somewhere, and i may update this with a new list, a few more months in. More random rubbish from my brain soon.