Freelancing isn’t for cowards and suckers.
I’m not saying that to be harsh or to hurl insults.
I’m all for inclusion. I’m all for helping others succeed. And I believe there’s room for everyone who is meant to be in the freelance arena.
But everyone isn’t meant to be here.
Well, Miche who the fuck are you to decide? you may ask.
But I’m not deciding, not for you or for anyone else. I’m just stating the bitter facts.
Because I’m not a coward, I’m willing to forewarn others that being a creative professional isn’t for everyone.
It’s pleasing to hear“you can be whatever you want to be.” But it’s just not true for everybody.
You can be what you have the skills and potential to be.
There’s absolutely no chance I can be an aeronautic engineer. There’s no chance I can ever be a sketch artist. I can’t even draw a square, for God’s sake. That’s just not my destiny.
People miss and squander real opportunities because they’re not honest with themselves about their strengths and their weaknesses, and they waste time in the wrong lane.
Freelancing is part creative talent and part business skills. Unless you have a manager or an agent, you need to be savvy with both parts.
Freelancing Requires Strong Character
Think about what freelancing really is—a market of people providing services to other people who have a mission and who want to use someone else’s talent and labor to achieve it.
Freelance writers are hired to do the writing. Freelance photographers are hired to do the picture-taking. Freelance web designers are hired to build websites.
All this so people get the outcome they want without having to do the work themselves.
Fair exchange isn’t robbery. But if you’re too timid to prioritize your interest in an exchange, you’re going to get exploited.
At best, you’ll be overworked and underpaid. At worst, the market will crush you and keep on rolling.
Cowards lack the spine to stand up for themselves. If you bend and bow at the first sign of tension, criticism or disagreement, you’re too hollow to freelance.
You have to be able to stand up for yourself, your work and your standards. You have to be able to gauge your value and demand what you’re worth in return for what you do.
Freelancing Requires Courage
Another reason cowards don’t do well as freelancers, especially as freelance writers, is because there are people online whose entire purpose is to find weak people, rip their hearts out and crush them in public view.
Whether you’re dealing with trolls or vitriolic individuals, the battle against harsh criticism and nasty feedback is real.
As a freelancer, you’ll be exposed. The critics and the trolls, they’re usually hidden behind screen names and avatars. They’re emboldened. They’re relentless.
As a freelance writer, you need the courage to say what needs to be said regardless of whether it’s comfortable or popular.
As a freelance creative, you need the gall to create and publicize what you believe the public needs to see, hear or have regardless of opinion and backlash.
People who lack courage, who fear confrontation or who have struggled to deal with bullying in school or in the workplace, what are you going to do when you’re online and people anywhere in the world have free reign to attack you?
Freelancers face a lot of scrutiny. Prospective clients will question your competency and your fitness for projects. Critics will question your authenticity, your abilities, your judgment and your worth as a human being.
If you don’t believe you’re worthy and you don’t have inner resources you can rely on, self-doubt, fear and anxiety are going to drown you.
Freelancing, Not For The Naive
A sucker is someone who’s gullible, who easily deceived.
It sounds crude to define others that way, but let’s call it for what it is. Some people are prone to fall for tricks and traps. You can run circles around them all day and they never get close to catching up.
To succeed as a freelancer, you need to be sharp. You have to be vigilant of what are people are feeding you and watch out for their ulterior motives.
For example, one time while I was working with a finance publication, the editor sent out an email announcing “a great idea.” She wanted all of the freelance writers to create a database of our contacts.
That way, we would all have a larger pool of sources to contact for quotes, interviews and expertise.
That great idea automatically raised red flags for me. I didn’t have any problem compiling sources, and I certainly wasn’t about to hand over my network to other freelancers or the editorial staff at this publication.
But some writers did. And a couple months later, the publication axed them and had staff writers producing the bulk of the content.
Several months after that, the publication cut its staff members and hired new freelancers that started them at lower rates. It also hired mostly new editors, who presumably were entry-level and making less than the previous staff.
That publication was playing chess. Those freelancers who gave up free resources and severed their own bloodline were playing checkers.
Remember, freelancing is all about people trying to execute a mission. Everyone isn’t trying to maliciously gain the upper hand, but some people are.
And regardless of the intent, what matters is where you end up when the dust settles.
When you’re a freelancer you need the ability to think from multiple angles. You have to realize there’s your interest and the interest of one or more other parties.
As with any business, the primary focus should always be what’s best for the home team, meaning your team.
Balancing Business & Creativity
Everyone isn’t equipped to focus on the strategy of running a business while balancing the work of creating things. Some people just want to focus on writing, taking pictures, designing or whatever creative talent they have.
Those people are better off in an environment where there are people and regulations protecting their interests.
When you’re a freelancer, there’s no human resources to appeal to. There are no employee handbooks with the regulations laid out.
There are some instances where you can rely on the law. But in many cases, that help isn’t feasible or worthwhile. And it may be damn near impossible to access in a lot of circumstances.
As a freelancer, you’ll need to be prepared to take matters into your own hands. You have to have the stamina and will to fight for what’s right on your own. No defense. No backup.
That’s the only way you’re going to survive and thrive.