6 Ways Freelancing Has Surprised Me

On the 17th of April, I bit back some sentimental tears and hugged all of my beloved colleagues at That’s It as Head of Content once last time before taking myself off for a consolatory toasted sarmie and glass of wine.

That same evening I did my first freelance consultation for a client. Someone actually paid me to talk to them about content strategy with regards to their brand and their business. After stressing about the meeting for the better part of the day and a near miss with a potential road rage incident-you can thank old becs for her sassy trigger finger on that one- I found myself halfway through the 3 hour session with a sudden, terrifying realisation. I knew what I was doing. Kind of.

I mean, I know full well there are people with vast swathes of knowledge that far exceed my own, but I realised that for that first 90 minutes, I had answered every question with a real answer and had advised the client as if her my business was my own. A few days later, I was amending a script for another client and stumbled across a particularly clever (I thought) joke. I couldn’t remember writing it myself (in fact I was on heavy meds for the ailments discussed in this post during that job, and couldn’t remember writing the script at all), and had assumed that the client had added it along with their other feedback. But no, checking the original draft, that clever quip had, in fact, been my own, I wanted to high-five past-Jade so hard right then.

The point of this rambling, seemingly narcissistic, horn-tooting introduction is just this, I expected a lot of things when I started freelancing a couple of weeks ago, but there have also been a lot of things I didn’t expect:

1. I haven’t had to look for clients

Touch wood (and then laugh at the phrase ‘touch wood’ if you’re also a 12-year old mentally).

So far referrals and past contacts have been filling my days with so much work that I haven’t had to start hinting, begging or taking hostages just yet. What I didn’t realise when I tried freelancing for the first time when I was 24 (and a bigger asshole than now, if you can believe that) is that talent gets you the job done, but it doesn’t get you the job.

Favours, friendships and paying it forward are all soft skills you need to master if you want people to think of your name when an opportunity arises.

2. I am conflicted about my new boss

There are 2 Jades currently inhabiting this body.

Jade One is the lazy shit of a writer who wants to get up at noon and watch Hannibal into the early hours of the next day, pausing only for bathroom breaks and to refill her food trough.

Jade Two likes being organised, and fucking hates Jade One. Jade Two is looking into Jade One’s contract for some loophole to get that shiftless cow fired. Jade One can be quite creative and comes up with good ideas sometimes. Jade Two is (relatively) good at managing the accounts and putting on grown-up pants before meetings.

Freelancing means knowing when and how to switch between being these two people and getting them to work together better. They’re both easily placated by coffee and wine, so that helps.

3. I can’t work ‘anywhere’

Adam keeps telling me I should go work in a coffee shop, or at a friend’s house, or somewhere, anywhere, far away that will give him the freedom to watch whatever he wants for a few hours.

But the truth is that when you don’t have an office to work in, you crave one. We’re lucky in that the cats let us use their playroom as a work space and despite all the other exciting alternatives, I still work best in a quiet room, by myself, at a desk, trying not to go onto Pinterest.

4. My cats are really needy little fuckers

Shame. It’s a bit pathetic really. They follow me from one room to the next, constantly interrupting my thought process, mewing for attention. Not unlike some interns I’ve worked with, I guess.

5. My work is getting better

I try to be disciplined about sticking to the allocated time I’ve quoted per project, but working on my own, at my own pace, I find that I can put a lot more care and thought into my work. Getting work from a couple of amazing, fun, edgy new clients in particular has also allowed me to really pour myself into what I’m doing. I’m not saying I don’t always try to make sure something’s up to scratch before sending it on, but I’ve learnt that there’s definitely a difference between ‘quality assurance’ and taking genuine pride in your work.

6. Lunch is a real meal

It’s a small thing, but sitting down at a table with Adam, or with a fellow freelancer for a well-deserved break feels very European (in a relaxed, Mediterranean way, not a scary, German kind of way). Because there are far fewer lunch runs to takeaway joints or Woolies, the food is homemade, charmingly ‘rustic’ (read: messy), and hopefully a lot better for us.

I’m sure that the quiet months are still ahead, complete with their own set of challenges (like money!), and I’m sure I still have much to learn about being an independent supplier…. But so far I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well the last couple of weeks have gone.

Here I was thinking I’d be spending most of my days wearing smelly pyjamas, day-drinking and watching reality TV, and instead I’ve spent most of my days wearing smelly pyjamas, day-drinking and writing copy.

What a world.

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