One of the reasons I like freelancing is that I like variety. I learned early on, when I had temp jobs back in high school, that I wouldn’t last long in Cubicle World. We weren’t suited to each other.
On the flips side of it, when a client changes the parameters of a project, laughing it off as, “You’ll never get bored here; everything is different” — that is often a red flag.
Which is why your contract and/or Letter of Agreement is so important.
So how do you balance that, and how do you keep enough variety in your life with short-term one-offs, while still having the stability of steady income, without falling a rut?
Damned if I know.
Bet you expected a different answer, didn’t you?
But I’m figuring it out. It’s probably different for me than for many others, but maybe something in my journey will resonate. If I can save someone else pain, frustration, and time, good for all of us.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve developed two important tools:
I keep going back to that, don’t I? But listening is important. That’s how you create, that’s how you figure out what’s under the actual words, and which words you need to craft the message. Both your own message and the client’s.
Listen to the client.
Listen to yourself. Not just what you say to the client and how you say it, but how does it feel?
I recently withdrew from consideration from a project that attracted me because I liked the organization, and the money/security aspect was seductive. However, listening, really listening to them in the meeting, and then to my own instincts, let me know we were not the right fit. They needed someone with different skills than I have. They were willing to train me, but those weren’t skills and job elements that would have made me happy. What had attracted me to the job in the first place turned out to be a small portion of the job. We weren’t what the other partner needed.
Because it IS a partnership, when it works well.
I listened to them.
Even more importantly, I listened to my own instincts.
We parted on good terms.
Which is better than taking the job, proving I wasn’t happy, and leaving on bad terms.
“No” is not a dirty word
As a freelancer, you are allowed to say “no.” You are allowed to refuse jobs that you don’t want or like, for whatever reason.
I don’t work for companies who support practices I believe are harmful to justice, equality, and climate change. That is my choice. Other people don’t really care, as long as they’re paid fairly and on time. I do. My politics is not separate from my life or my work. Not at this stage of the game.
Do we have to take jobs we don’t like, just for the cash? Most of us have, at one time or another. Many of us may have to in the future, especially when the economy crashes again. But it doesn’t mean we have to stay forever. You survive. I keep digging until I find a client that doesn’t go against everything I value.
Coping with change
Change is often thrown at us when we least want to deal with it.
Coping mechanisms that I find useful (outside of sticking to my daily yoga/meditation practice no matter how crazy the day gets) include:
–when you start to feel the change, or see the red flags, pay attention. This goes back to listening. Trust your instincts, then find facts to back them up (or prove otherwise). Usually, however, your instincts are correct.
–keep your resume updated. Even when you’re comfortable. I keep a Master CV that has Everything I’ve Ever Done and is massive. From that, I pull to create relevant resumes for the LOIs.
–keep your clip files current. As soon as it’s published/produced, I add it to my clip file, as both a printable hard copy and a link. Links go away. Hard copies can be scanned or copied or used in a variety of ways.
–keep talking to people. Send out LOIs, even during big projects. Go to Chamber events and other networking sessions. Go to conferences. Talk to other professionals across disciplines on social media.
–keep learning. Take courses in skills and interests. Read about what’s changing in your field, and add to your skill set. I’m a big fan of Coursera, but there are plenty of other places, too.
–acknowledge feelings of sadness, anger, fear. You feel what you feel. It’s not about what other people decide is relevant or useful. Your emotions are valid. Face them, accept them, find ways to work with them, not ignore them. Repression will come back to bite you in the butt.
–embrace transience. Everything changes. Enjoy the perfect moments of happiness, and then make a commitment to enjoy the journey and build something better.
How do you prepare for and work with upcoming change?