Being a freelancer is not easy, specially if you left the security of a steady job in order to become self-employed. When you work for others, everything is done for you: you just need to show up and do what is expected of you and you will get compensated for it. But when you are a freelancer, you are the boss, you are the employee, you are the sales team and you are even Janice in Accounting (hello John Oliver!). It takes a very special type of person to be able to run a succesful freelance business, because on top of all that you also need to be committed, be good at your craft and be self-motivated.
There is a lot of perks in being a freelancer, don't get me wrong, like the feeling of freedom that you have by having control over your life and your business decisions. Quoting Isaac Mizrahi: “Even when it sucks, it's worth it”. But I feel like you have to work twice as much because you are wearing so many hats and you are basically on your own. Besides, you usually don't have the support system that you have in an office job to keep you motivated. So even when things are going great, when clients keep on coming and when money keeps flowing in, you still need a strong will to not fall victim to monotony.
The Merriam-Webster defines monotony as "a lack of change that makes something boring", but I have an uncle who has his personal definition and I feel like I like his better: "monotony is the loss of the capacity to be surprised". Because when you go to bed at night after an uneventful day that seems to be repeating itself like the groundhog day for you-don't-remember-how-long, you start to question yourself about the reasons you had when you decided to become a freelancer.
Back in the day when you quit your day job to go full-time freelancer you visualized yourself shooting covers for magazines all the time, doing hair for celebrities, applying makeup on runway shows or styling and designing for the crème-de-la-crème of the fashion world. But a few years later you realize that all that is fun and games but it doesn't pay much and you need to keep your business running. So now you see yourself shooting products against a white background 300 times each day, doing hair for your personal clients in your living room, applying makeup in a counter at your local department store or becoming a personal shopper or designing clothing for someone else's brand.
And there is no shame on any of the above, we all have bills to pay. These sort of jobs are our bread and butter and at least you are still able to do the craft that you love. Sadly, there are so many freelancers, specially in the creative fields, that can't take this for too long and decide to quit and to go back to working for somebody else. So before you give up and take an extreme decision, there are many things that you can do to put your freelance career back on track:
- Decide who you want to work with. The awesome thing about being a freelancer is that you can decide who you want to have as a client and who you don't. Figure out who your ideal client is, make a list of some companies that fit that profile and target them on your marketing strategy. By targetting your ideal clients sooner than later you will start doing the types of jobs that you want.
- Don't give up on your bread and butter clients. We still need those jobs as a steady income source, but don't allow them to take more than 20% of your active clients list. That way you can still work with your ideal clients 80% of the time.
- Get involved in interesting projects, even if they pay little or don't pay at all. The creative side of your brain will thank you for it and you will get to do stuff that will push your skills forward.
- Do personal projects to keep the creative juices flowing. Do a photodocumentary on the eldest people of your community, do hair tutorials on youtube, apply makeup in hospitals to cheer up patients, write a blog on styling, teach people how to make new clothes from old ones if they can't afford to buy more...
These are only a few ideas of things that you can do to get your motivation back and to fall in love with your job again. Having a freelance career is like being in a relationship: if the other party stops being appealing to you, the relationship wont last much longer.
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