365 Days in the Wild
Have you seen a freelancer working in the wild of a locally owned coffee shop? The mental picture that fabricates might be: a young-ish hipster dressed person, with extra ear piercings and visible arm tattoos, working on a slim Mac laptop computer, drinking a $10 cup of coffee, while using the free WiFi at the cafe in the early afternoon. They are looked on with envious eyes of the workers that are dashing in for a quick to-go cup of caffeine while on their way into a florescent lit room of cubicles, often mistaken for an office, as they wear uncomfortable button up shirts. Other coffee shop patrons are stay-at-home parents, mostly moms, with their newest offspring in tow while they get a much needed coffee before running errands in their matching track suits. At least that was the impression given to me by movies and television. It all seemed so glamorous and carefree. I knew that wasn’t the case, but oh how I wanted it to be true.
In fact, the amount of times I actually went to a cafe to sit and use their WiFi as I sipped casually on a cappuccino has been a total of three. Three that I can remember anyway. Some cafes didn’t have the most comfortable chairs, so I didn’t end up staying much longer after I was done with my drink. Other places got too noisy and I’m not a huge fan of wearing my headphones while out in public. Most of the time it was a hassle to pack up my work station, drive to a coffee shop, and set up to work for maybe an hour or two. No, I spent the majority of my time at home in my elastic waist-banded sweat pants and a comfy t-shirt. I was anything but the model of what a freelancer would look like. But for the past year, my method worked just fine for me.
After a year freelancing full time, all I can say is it feels much longer than that. I’m still in contact with some of my past co-workers from my last office job. Occasionally we have lunch and chat about work and how things are currently. They tell me in so many ways “You aren’t missing anything.” For the first few months after departing I missed only the people, not the work. And a few months after that I missed the paychecks, still not the work. Another reason I didn’t drive out and patronize local coffee huts; money.
Over the summer, my boyfriend and I took a once in a lifetime trip to Alaska. It might sound like I was making oodles of cash in order to pay for that trip, but I’m still feeling the sting of the cost four months later. It was worth every penny I spent but it knocked me back in a way I wasn’t prepared for. I had work coming in but it wasn’t nearly enough income to pay all the bills. After a few weeks of sporadic clients, I started looking for a “real” job. Something part time that would get a little cash in during the lull in design work. Believe me, I tried every avenue I could before I made this decision. After a half dozen interviews and some time gone by, new clients started coming in and I no longer had to find extra work. Did I luck out? Maybe. None of the jobs I was interviewed for wanted to hire me, even though the interview went spectacular. If nothing else, it was good practice for when I interviewed for a freelance in-house position with an agency downtown.
Like most new businesses, there is very little show in profit for the first few years. I was expecting that but I didn’t plan ahead like I needed to. This past year has been an incredible learning experience. Everyone at every creative brunch or happy hour says the same thing, so at least I don’t feel quite so out of place. Even this far in, I know I’ll never stop learning. My methods are becoming more streamlined and my file of resources steadily grows, making my interactions with new clients much smoother. I know how I want to present myself and have gotten a stronger back bone when I need to say “no” to someone or something. And when I say no, it isn’t immediately scoffed at by a potential client. They walk away and later come back with more understanding that I don’t sell myself short just because their project is important to them and they think they’re special.
Here’s to another 365 days out in the wild. And many, many more.