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Posts Tagged ‘Freelancing’

PyramidWell, it’s been a busy few weeks – my clients are very busy, which means I’m busy too! Which is all good. But it does mean that the blogging suffers. Being a perfectionist, I find it difficult to post something without having carefully considered every word, ensuring that what I’m posting is meaningful, helpful and useful to any readers out there. However, I’ve been reminded of that old aphorism ‘Done is better than perfect’, so am determining to get my thoughts out there a bit more often. Because I do find, frequently, that my ‘half-baked’ is someone else’s ‘fantastic!’ (Of course, my ‘fantastic!’ is often someone else’s ‘meh’, but you can’t have everything.)

Today I’m pondering Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Heavy stuff, eh? I remember the theory from (probably) management lectures at library school, (certainly) training courses in my first couple of jobs, and more recently the inner debates I’ve been having about the freelance life and why it suits me. And it got me thinking that Maslow’s theory might not hold up when it comes to this kind of lifestyle / career approach. (Stick with me – I only said ‘might’…)

[NB: I am not an expert in psychology, anthropology, sociology or ideology [I’m better at tragical-comical-historical-pastoral], so please don’t take what follows as anything other than the ramblings of a mind at leisure.)

Maslow proposes that humans experience different stages of growth, moving from basic functional needs to ‘higher’ aspirations. This is traditionally represented in a pyramid shape, with ‘physiological needs’ at the bottom, and progressing through ‘safety needs’, ‘love and belonging’ and ‘esteem’ before reaching ‘self-actualisation’ at the top. The idea is that you need to satisfy your basic requirements before you can spare a thought for more lofty, intellectual ideals; in other words, if you’re starving, homeless and jobless you won’t be concerning yourself with ‘stretch objectives’ to enable you to move up to the next rung of management – never mind saving the world.

Which got me thinking… I’m a freelancer. All’s going well at the moment, but I’m constantly aware that it could all come crashing down at any moment. My husband has a job, but we still need my income to pay for our house and everything that goes with it. So in theory I’m not really that secure. And yet most of the questions I’m bothering myself with at the moment relate absolutely to the ‘self-actualisation’ peak of the pyramid. Do I like what I’m doing? Does it have meaning? Is there anything else I could be doing to contribute to society and the world at large? Have I fulfilled my creative potential? Hardly the thoughts of someone who’s worried about whether they’ll have a home in six months’ time.

Why is this? Is it because, despite working in an insecure fashion, I’m not really that much more insecure than any ‘normal’ person in a ‘normal’ job with the very real and ‘normal’ threat of redundancy hanging over them? Because even though in six months’ time I may not have an income, right now I do – which is more than can be said for many? Because I definitely, always, absolutely know where my next meal is coming from? Maybe my idea of ‘insecurity’ reeks of that frankly irritating Twitter hashtag #firstworldproblems. I know that, if crunch time came and I lost all my clients in a freak earthquake, I would somehow get through. I have a husband with a job. I have a family with spare beds. I have – I hope – a sweet and friendly personality that will endear me to anyone of whom I might need to beg a favour. Plus, of course, I have skills I can sell – and there will always be people needing what I have to offer. So maybe what seems like insecurity to me really isn’t worthy of the name.

I guess that what I’m trying to say is that, while many people see self-employment (in a recession! Heavens!) as the scary option that’s going to leave them starving, homeless and jobless, this isn’t necessarily the case. I genuinely started this blog post thinking I was going to overturn Maslow and his precious theory, by showing that it is possible to work on intellectual aspirations while also fretting about the food bill – but as I’ve reflected on what this actually means, I’ve come to realise that I’m nowhere near as badly off as I thought. And believe me, I’m greedily counting my blessings.

So there it is. The reason I’m able to sit here in a cafe writing this blog post is because I spent the last month slogging away earning hard cash, postponing that sense of real insecurity for a while yet. But what I need to do, constantly, is ensure that I have additional options tucked away for a rainy day. I can never stop looking for new initiatives, new ways of working, new places to go and people to meet – which is at the same time horrifically insecure and unbelievably exciting.

So maybe Maslow was wrong after all…

What do you think? Am I talking out of my behind, or do we need to revisit what ‘security’ means to us these days? Please share your comments below!

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FRH coverFollowing my last post on why I made the leap to the freelance life, I thought it might be apt to share with you a book that has helped me, in no small manner, along the way.

The book is ‘Be a Free Range Human: Escape the 9-5, Create a Life You Love and Still Pay the Bills‘ by Marianne Cantwell, and I recently reviewed it on one of my other blogs.

Here’s a taster of what I said:

“So many people fantasise about what they’d do if they won the lottery and didn’t have to commute every day to a job that is barely keeping their little grey cells ticking over, never mind filling their life with meaning. Well, Marianne’s book gives you the practical knowledge and ‘how to’ tips in order for you to not only dream a dream but live it too.”

For more, please read my full review.

Have you come across any other books that you’d recommend on this subject, i.e. how to make a living doing what you love? Please share below!

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SeagullIt’s over a year now since I quit my last job to go freelance full time, so it feels like a good point to reflect on all that has happened, and share some thoughts that may be helpful to others considering making a similar leap.

Going freelance is a big step for anyone, and I imagine everyone has their own reasons, their own ‘final straw’ for taking that determined plunge into the cold waters. This could be anything from losing your job, through wanting to take a hobby to the next level, to realising that life is too short not to aim for your dreams.

For me, it was simply a matter of the uncertainty (and all its associated risks) being a more palatable alternative than carrying on as I was.

For years I’d struggled to build a traditional career within traditional organisations. I’d tried a whole range of sectors and roles, and never quite got that sense of ‘yes, this is where I fit in’. I had a particular issue with having to follow the rules simply because the rules were there, and I could never get used to the idea of someone else, however benign, dictating the course of my life.

But for years I kept telling myself (probably because the world was telling me) that I had to buckle down and fall into line. Everyone has to have a job, don’t they? No-one likes having to get up every morning and go into the office, but we don’t have a choice, do we?

Actually, we do have a choice. And it sometimes takes an uncomfortable situation to bring it home to you just what your choices are.

My journey towards the freelance life began in earnest a few years ago, when I found myself working in an organisation whose management culture, shall we say, I disagreed with. But, for the first time in my life, instead of thinking ‘it’s all my fault, I must be rubbish’, I thought ‘No. I am extremely good at what I do. This environment simply doesn’t provide me with what I need.’

I knew then that I had the self-confidence to really make something of myself.

I made the decision to leave that job and, during my notice period, went to business start-up workshops organised by my local council. That was the first time I actually felt freelancing was possibly for someone like me; the workshops addressed many of my fears and worked through them with practical advice and suggestions. However, I still didn’t feel quite confident enough to go it alone straight away, so I decided to go for another full-time job and see if I could build up the freelancing in my spare time, as an investment towards the future.

That didn’t quite happen. The new job was an hour and a half’s commute each way, so that by the time I got home each night I was exhausted and only just capable of cooking dinner, watching TV and going to bed. Certainly no time for any tinkering with a freelance career ‘on the side’.

The upside was that the job was brilliant. (As jobs go!) The company was forward thinking, the management were highly supportive and gave great, regular, constructive feedback. If I’d wanted to build my career in a normal workplace environment, I couldn’t have asked for much better. Any lingering doubts about my own abilities were scotched entirely.

However, I was still office-based, doing one job, with no time whatsoever for fitting in anything else (even a hobby) on the side. And it was eventually the commute that did for me. It wore me out so much that I got ill, and then I knew it was crunch time. I had to do something. But after job-hopping for so many years there didn’t seem to be another logical move other than to break out on my own. But could I really do it?

All the usual fears kicked in. What if I couldn’t make it work, couldn’t pay the bills, lost the house? But then, for the first time ever, I saw that I had a choice. I realised that, no matter how scary the worst case scenario, no matter what sort of financial trouble I might be storing up for myself, nothing could possibly be as bad as what I was currently putting myself through. An three-hour daily commute? That was making me ill? For a career that still didn’t feel 100% right for me? It was like the proverbial flash of light – and that’s when I decided to do it.

I should stress that this wasn’t a blind leap in the dark. I’d been thinking about this for a year, I’d already done a lot of research, I’d got tons of information under my belt, and I knew where to go for advice and support networks.

Another important point to stress is that, when I leapt, I had a financial buffer to last me several months. So I knew I wasn’t facing immediate potential ruin. But there was still the issue of ‘what will happen when the money runs out?’ I just had to trust that, in that time, I could come up with a plan that would work.

Yet another key factor in my faith that I’d make it was that, whilst employed, I’d been able to research the market for my freelance skills, and knew that there was one out there. Now it was just up to me to get on with it.

And so I jumped.

As I said, it’s now been over a year since I quit that last job. I’m very aware that it could all come crashing down at any time; I still live ‘on the edge’ in that respect. I don’t make a fortune either – but that’s partly down to my own decision that time is as important to me as money; and for now, as long as I have enough to live on, and can still find time to do the things I love that don’t pay, that’s exactly how I like it. I’m already looking at alternative options for my future, different paths to take and projects to try. It’s the freedom that I love the most, and I have that in spades. I consider myself very blessed.

To return to the ‘taking the plunge’ metaphor. While the waters of going it alone can seem very cold to begin with, it’s important to remember that they often warm up once you’ve been swimming for a while. You just need to keep moving your arms and legs, keep heading forward, and with persistence (and a healthy dollop of luck) you might even reach a point where you’re so comfortable you’ll never want to get out.

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