When I started my business five years ago (Happy Anniversary to me as of March 1st!) I did it with no capital and no clients. I really didn’t have solid grounding until mid 2014. It was a rough ride (and it still can be!) but I stuck with it. Like all things you have to walk before you run. As for me, I’m definitely a late bloomer. And as much as I want to be at that next level I know it takes time. Currently, work is extremely busy and I cater to a wide variety of clients. Do I take jobs that I may necessarily want to take? Sure (cashing checks brother). Do I take on gigs that I love – Of course I do. I’m lucky to have a network of repeat clientele that can count on my work. When you’re a freelancer – establishing those relationships is important. It’s also important to know your limitations and not to stretch yourself too thin that you freak out and can’t get any work done. It happens. Freelancing is an interesting thing. You’re basically on your own doing your thing with your skillset. Now, in the grand scheme of things, there are lots of people who can probably do what you do but you have to believe in your work enough that you can keep getting clients and build your craft. Study the folks that you like who are deeper in your industry. They made it work, right? Why can’t you? You don’t have to copy someone but you should learn different approaches and add them to your own. There are tons of things that go into being a freelancer and guess what – we don’t have it easy. We WANT to have it easy and that’s why freelancers work so hard. The grind can be tough and frustrating but the rewards outweigh the tough times. I can go on with motivational phrases and quotes from “influencers” or whatever but at the end of the day – all those quotes DO mean something. BUT so does saying it takes time for something to click but when it does get ready for the next level. Stick to it!
See what I did there with the watches? (Time is what I’m implying)
In 2013 I quit my go nowhere job to start my photography business full time. I had no capital, no clients, just sweat equity and moral support. Four years later my business is going strong and I have a steady clientele that lets me pay the bills and have some fun as well. There were many times in that two years in business that I felt like the burden of having minimal finances was too much to bear. There were tons of sleepless nights and days of worry when I wasn’t getting client emails or calls. I would become moody and intolerable.
Mental fortitude got me through it. I know I was good enough to make something of myself on my own. My work was adequate at the time for what I was charging. And slowly but surely my work got better and my clients got bigger. I went from price shoppers and late payers to reputable clients that didn’t play games. During these last four years I’ve tried to absorb as much as possible about business and creating something artful through my profession that is not only fulfilling but something eye catching that my clients want. It’s a never ending journey and I understand that, which I do enjoy because it’s a challenge. I can honestly say being a gamer helps because with each stage or challenge to level up your skills to get to the next area. Sometimes you need to build your skills up more than you ever thought just so you can reach that pinnacle where yet more challenges await and dammit I love a good challenge.
Of course this journey is also full of establishing work life balance, networking, selling your skills, finding work, making sure work gets completed on time, and making time for family and friends. There was a period of time where I just disappeared from my friends, which at the time I thought that was the right thing to do. I was wrong. It was just a mis management of time on my part. There was also a short period where I lost myself to freelancing in the respect that money was coming in and I was being very lazy, which is NOT a good thing at all because when laziness hits that money stops coming in. I fell into the trap of making my own schedule and rules and enjoyed a little too much food and drink, which cause it’s on stresses after the fact.
It’s hard not to let stress get to you but you always have to think about the opposite side of the equation. If you are making your dreams into goals and making those goals a reality you need to operate with a clear and positive mind. Again – having a clear head 100% of the time is impossible but you can strive to be thoughtful and aware of your situation and your skills. Over the last four years I’ve met lots of creatives who gave up on their dreams to go back to a 9-5 work day. The stress got to them and they went back to what they knew, which was a regimented day to day operation in which they are told what to do and punch out at 5 or 6. That’s great if they are happy but I know one of the reasons I work so hard is to not have to go back to the 9-5 drudge. The thought of it makes me queasy.
If you need to destress I suggest look at the things in your life that are affecting your mind. It could be anything from too much alcohol, eating the wrong food, not getting enough sleep, not working out, or just getting easily frustrated. For me I need a combination of working out, clean eating, and getting plenty of rest so I can be at my best every day. Working out helps with a clear head because I can just exercise my frustrations and leave them on the street. Eating clean helps my body as well. If you feel good on the inside it only helps what’s up stairs. I cannot function when I’m tired. I get lazy and just want to crawl back into bed. Limit your late nights for when you truly should have fun and blow off steam. You can easily eliminate your bad habits and turn them into positive ones. For example starting in 2017 every time I wanted to go for a drink or meal that wasn’t home cooked I would just take that money and put it in my savings. It added up and I bit myself for not doing that sooner.
Full time freelancers also tend to forget their hobbies because they are always so busy. You may not know this but it adds to your stress level because you have no mental release of everything that’s pent up inside you. For me 2017 started with adding writing, drawing, and playing music at least once a day every day and I find it extremely refreshing because it again clears your mind so you can focus on your tasks at hand. You are in control of you and no one is going to tell you that you can’t pickup a guitar in the middle of the day so you can jam out a few tunes before sitting back on your computer. Shutting off your screens and chilling out before bed also helps big time. I’m a big believer in positive thinking and there is nothing but goodness that comes from that. It’s all about being mindful. Your mind is so powerful that you can achieve anything you want literally by setting your mind to it. Take a deep breath and exhale that goodness. Fill your lungs with awesome and show it to the world.
2016 was a weird year.
I think I can speak for all of us when I say it was an unexpected year to say the least. 2016 just seemed to have a blanket of malaise through the full year. There were lots of ups and downs but wow a whole lot of downs. We kind of realized the world is a lot scarier than we gave it credit for. In the age of smart phones, tablets, plugging in, luxurious tech solutions shaming this and that social media memes viral marketing keeping up with the Jone distractions, we kind of got hit in the face with our own mortality, the mortality of others, and the fact that no matter how progressive we think we are as a society we make HUGE mistakes. (See what I did there?)
Freelancing in 2016 was interesting as well. We saw more freelancers join the market more than ever. It’s great that folks are once again taking it upon themselves to carve out their own niche. Isn’t that what modern society was built on? People saying NO- I got this? Creatively I had so far the best year of my career. I met so many wonderful people, worked on many great projects, and improved my portfolio in ways I couldn’t even dream of when I started in 2013. It makes me hungry to do more and hungry for the future. That being said – success doesn’t come over night. I’m personally not at all where I want to be now but instead of jumping the gun I’ve come to grips with walking before I run – even though I have a very run run run attitude. The cream always rises to the top (Oh yeah!) as they say. Freelancing has many bumps in the road but the goal should be knowing that you’re doing what you love and are able to support yourself and your family. Being in New York we have the added bonus of fighting with the city that never sleeps and wrestling it into submission because you know you can conquer whatever is out there waiting. But guess what – New York doesn’t want to beat you down. New York is the Howard “Fats” Brown (From the Twilight Zone Episode “A Game Of Pool.”) New York is the best there is BUT wants to be beaten. It needs you to alleviate the stigma that comes with it. The song rings true “If you can make it there – you can make it anywhere” and I think if you have the mindset to make it in NYC and follow through – you’ll be just fine kiddo. I encourage anyone with a passion to jump in two feet first and ruin their lives trying to make something of themselves in this city.
We lost a lot of great people in 2016 and I’d like to think we gained a lot of perspective. Life’s too short to be an asshole to anyone. Maybe we should be as good as we can to one another and hope that 2017 is the most kick ass year we can have regardless of how you feel about certain things. My mindset is to engage and rearrange. We could also use a serious overhaul on our way through life and what better time than now? I have the privilege of working with a lot of great creative folks and more often than not I get texts, emails, and have conversations regarding the same feelings across the board. Hopefully we have an artful 2017 with tons of laughs, great success, and a lot of fun. Don’t let the haters tear you down. Onward. Forward. March.