On The Road Again: Pushing Through the Freelance Struggle
It's funny to think these photographs were taken a little over this time last year. Back then, I was just on the precipice of a new adventure: moving from my adoptive hometown of Bristol to glorious, smoky London. The summer of 2017 saw me running around all the obnoxiously trendy coffee shops (as I had done since I was 16) in the name of 'content creating.' Except this project didn’t really have anything to do with me, but was about celebrating the launch of a new business that a friend had created: lifestyle studio, SMUK London. I had the privilege of seeing a really cool concept come to life, spearheaded by a formidable woman who was only a little older than me. It was an exciting time. Looking back at these photographs by Nkima de Faria, I recall what that day really represented to me: the notion of creative freedom. Meaning, having the vision to lead a life according, as far as possible, to one’s own specification.
A year on and I am somewhat in the same place I was back then. Only, I have more professional experience, more prospects... and many, many more fears. The mild thrum of anxiety is a long-accepted companion, a treasured member of the tropes of being a professional writer. (Pitching alone seems like the biggest hurdle until you actually get commissioned. After that, the next potential stumbling block is simply starting the piece. Then, sending the finished article while slightly dreading that responsive email from an editor… Being a writer is not exactly the world’s most challenging profession, but it’s no picnic either. Yet, for all of that, you pray that the angst-ridden cycle continues.)
I always make sure to have a creative cull whenever my professional life threatens to stop being worth the effort and stress. Having to rely on your own merits to make a living can be empowering - and overpowering. It's not rare to feel like you’re drowning. Drowning in workload and in content, drowning in ideas (whether fruitful or much less so). And let’s not forget the deadlines. So as well as the vulnerable place forming and pitching ideas can put you in, you may find yourself bubbling in a cauldron of toil. This may start with wondering which tasks are most urgent and end up with your questioning why on earth you chose this project and/or career in the first place. Oops, there goes the joy. And now, what’s the point of it all?
Yes, balance is a myth. But I’ve learned that consistency is the thing to strive for. This could be in the number of clients you’re trying to acquire or finding a way to spread the workload you'll eventually get as evenly as humanly possible. It doesn’t really matter. All you need is to have an idea of where you stand now and where you’re likely to stand in the near future. This semblance of coherence will likely improve your ability to keep loving what you do. So far, I've found that maintaining joy has been instrumental in my efforts to be my own boss. When I remain positive, a loophole forms out of the impossible and some of those struggles actually materialise into a reason. Yes, realising it's all worth it is a significant step, albeit tentatively placed at first.
But I always start with being grateful for the job I have, remembering that I am privileged to do what I love for a living. This prompts me to think about my goals and plot how I'll go about achieving them.
The more ambitious the better. Failure is my best frenemy.