It’s a tough life, being a freelancer. And it has much to do with the ‘free’ in the job description. Here are just a few instances why this happens:
1.To begin with, people assume that you are free whenever they want you to be. Which means that whenever you are bequeathed an assignment you should be like a jumping, hungry puppy waiting to lap it up. Alas, freelancers also have schedules and despite vast tracts of unemployed time it could happen that they could not be ‘free’ just when you want them to be.
As a freelancer in a slowing market, one may be tempted to forgive such behavior of clients, but in the long run such an attitude could prove to be detrimental. Firstly, time spent waiting could be better utilised in following new assignments and second and most importantly clients should also not get the impression that you have nothing better to do than wait for them. A freelancer has to be professional and fair. And the first step towards getting there is to get out the message that you are not perpetually ‘free’.
2. And then there is the free in the fee. Many freelancers shortchange themselves by selling themselves – well, short! Or even for free. Most of us start of from scratch, with few or no contacts in the industry that we are trying to break into. The most obvious way to build a reputation (e.g a clip file of bylines) is by agreeing to do any work that you get – even if it pays a pittance or even nothing at all. This is just the beginning we assure ourselves. But then there has to be a time limit for even beginnings!
Ever since I set up my freelancing shop in right earnest last year, I have kept a close watch on what avenues are actually leading towards building my income. And sadly, at the end of six months there are some which are just not showing any returns. Despite the goodwill I would rather give up on this relationship and move on to something more profitable.
The point that I am trying to make is that we all become freelancers because it gives us some ‘free’dom (Yes, I would like to believe that is the correct free in freelancing). Freedom from organizational constraints, from restrictions of time and methodology, freedom from stilted thinking etc. And it is despite or rather because of all of these freedoms that we are valuable assets to our clients. Because we operate individually we have a greater stake in performing to the best possible level, and turning in the best assignments.
This is something that we as freelancers should realise. We are assets, not freeloaders. We bring value and we need to ensure that our value is appreciated appropriately by our clients!