What I've Learned After 1 Year of Full-Time Freelancing / by Chris Skyes

About a year ago, I was forced out of my retail job. You’ve heard the story before: a manager really doesn’t like you, and they’re doing everything in their power to make you quit, because they have no actual legitimate reason to fire you.

In November 2017, my manager finally succeeded. I went over to a computer, and typed the following words:

I hereby hand in my formal four week notice.

Before signing my name, dating it, and printing it out, I had the inspiration to make one extra addition. ‘Merry Christmas’, is what was added, at the end of the page. I then carefully folded the piece of paper, and had the utmost pleasure of handing it to one of the two managers who were responsible for pushing me out.

Walking away from her, I smiled from ear to ear, aware that she knew exactly what the ‘Merry Christmas’ at the end meant. I didn’t have to say anything, and I didn’t have to put myself in a precarious position by being rude.

It was the perfect ending to a resignation letter, handed in by an employee with 5 years of experience, weeks before the busiest time of year.

Sometimes, in order to win, you have to not play at all.

Now, it’s been a year since those events. It’s been a hard year, a tough year, but freedom isn’t free. It always comes at a price.

To celebrate my independence, as it were, I wanted to share with you some of the things that I’ve learned along the way.

Save Up

This goes without saying, but it’s important to have some money put aside. You don’t want to jump into freelancing with little to no savings, as you’ll find yourself in hot water relatively quickly, but the opposite is also a trap.

Waiting until you have ‘enough’ saved up can trap you in an infinite loop. Every year, after you’ve spent unnecessarily on things you don’t actually need, you’ll realise that you don’t have quite enough saved up.

Maybe next year.

Learn to Handle Your Emotions

Along the way, there will be dry periods. At some point, you are basically guaranteed to find yourself low on money, and with no extra funds coming in.

That can be scary, and it’s important to use your judgment. Going back to a regular job for a little while is always an option. It’s not an ideal one, but it’s certainly better than being homeless.

In these times of hardship, it’s important to have a grip on your emotions. It is likely that you may begin to slowly panic, and whatever you decide to do, making a decision in a state of panic has never served anyone well.

In fact, the ideal situation is harnessing the feeling of fear, and using it to your advantage.

No Better Motivation than Fear

When I went through a dry spell, the fear of potentially having to go back to a regular job terrified me. I did not want to do that, under any circumstance. The fear that I felt in that moment lit a fire under me, and pushed me to expand my passive sources of income.

I had succeeded in using my fear to my advantage, Also, it pushed me to do one other thing, and that was to…

Diversify

I grew up in a family of business men and women, and one of the first things that I learned growing up was never to put all of your eggs in one basket. Having a single source of income is a recipe for a bad time, and so diversifying is crucial.

I started off doing sound design work, alongside sound editing. That was great, but the work wasn’t coming in constantly. Whilst working on passive sources of income, such as my sound effects libraries, I decided to expand my skills, and also properly monetise my passion for photography.

I began marketing myself more aggressively as a photographer, in addition to learning Adobe Premiere Pro, and After Effects.

They say that luck is when opportunity meets preparation. Upon diversifying my skills, I began getting more photography and video editing work. This allowed me even more freedom, and the ability to choose what I wanted to do with my time.

Balance

When ‘hustling’, as they say, it’s really easy to lose sight of everything other than work. That being said, it is tricky, as it is a tough balance to strike. Leaning too much into work can burn you out, which isn’t good, but leaning too much towards relaxation will cause your income to slip.

The topic of balance is vast, and it involves meditation, and joining a gym, amongst other things. I plan to release a more in-depth article on maintaining balance soon, so if you’re interested, feel free to sign up to my newsletter down below.

Creativity

Even if you earn a living by being creative, like I do, it’s easy for your passion to become your job. in other words, when you work with audio and video all day, the films that you make are no longer purely creative, but they often have to follow guidelines imposed by others.

Whatever it is that you do as a freelancer, I believe it is important to set aside some time in which you decide what you want to do, or what you want to create.

In my case, over the past few months, it was working on a short film. Even though I work with audio and video all day, it was incredibly refreshing to open up Adobe Premiere in order to work on something that I really wanted to do, rather than someone else’s project.

Here is the result of that work.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read my article, and I’ll see you next time!

Chris Skyes