My life as a freelancer

When I first embarked on my career as a freelance consultant, quite against my will, I was so excited - okay, not at first, but eventually I was. I would lean back in my chair and close my eyes to envision my life being not so different than a script from Sex and the City, minus the shoes. A cosmopolitan girl takes on the world with a great hair-do kind of thing.
It's been a bit different than I expected.

When I first embarked on my career as a freelance consultant, quite against my will, I was so excited – okay, not at first, but eventually I was. I would lean back in my chair and close my eyes to envision my life being not so different than a script from Sex and the City, minus the shoes. A cosmopolitan girl takes on the world with a great hair-do kind of thing.

It’s been a bit different than I expected.

If you’re about to head out on a similar career path, as I suspect many are, given the weekly did-you-hear-about-the-bloodbath-at-abc agency? phone calls that I get, here are some observations from a five-month veteran.

Don’t forget all those friends you’ve made in creative and production. The first thing a freelancer needs is a business card and letterhead. If you’re a suit, like me, you are absolutely talentless when it comes to making something beautiful to represent yourself. Here’s where your friends come in. My new logo was designed by a creative director friend of mine and they were printed gratis by a supplier I was loyal to. I hope you were good to people before you found yourself earning on your own. Friends with fancy machines will want to help you.

Business Depot is a very scary place. I knew I’d have to buy a lot of stuff to make myself a real home office. Printer, fax machine, furniture. Not a problem. But, did you know that staples cost money? Believe it. So do highlighters and pens. Do you have any idea how much coloured file folders cost? It’s obscene. Colour co-ordinated offices are more expensive than necessary and something ought to be done about it. Instead of the eye-pleasing rainbow kaleidoscope of workspace I dreamed of, I’m now surrounded by beige. It’s cheap. I paid for it myself.

It’s lonely by yourself. Hahaha. See? I just made myself laugh with that first sentence. You’ll find yourself desperately trying to please yourself, because there’s no idiot beside you to amuse you. Sometimes, I pretend my mail is laced with anthrax just for fun. I put on my rubber dish washing gloves and a sweat sock wrapped around my mouth and nose, then I bark orders to my detox team. Sometimes I’m really mean to them. It’s fun. You’ll have to make your own fun, too.

Somewhat related is the need to do other things, expand your world. In the beginning, your days will not be entirely filled. After you’ve sent out all your networking e-mails and called everyone on your list, you’ll find yourself with time on your hands that could be spent doing some good. So in my attempt to do something good, I’ve become involved in politics. (I’m so ironic.) I’m also writing a book and trying to sell it. I made a Web site all by myself. I’m even taking a French class. D’accord! (I’m trying to learn all the dirty words.) The point is to use your extra time constructively. Do something to broaden your horizons so you feel good about yourself.

Other freelancer friends are your lifeline. Well, that is if you like to spend time with people doing the same things as you. There’s this legendary freelance direct marketing writer who has invited me into her world of freelance people. They meet every month or so to share stories, drink some beer and find out who isn’t paying their bills. This is good information for a freelancer to have. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any kind of hazing ritual for new inductees. Maybe that’s the first trip to Business Depot on one’s own dime. I wonder if I can convince them that we should all have cool uniforms.

There are no IT people in this new world. When you open that kick-ass client strategy document that you spent 14 hours writing and find it’s now nothing but a bunch of hieroglyphics, there is no IT guy to call. You just have to deal with it yourself. What I’ve found works is to call my ISP’s tech line. While these problems are not theirs to fix, I find that the use of a sexy voice with a you-could-save-poor-lil-ol’-me approach does wonders for getting your Windows registry problems solved. Males have a one in 10 chance of this approach being successful, if you believe the statistics.

Oh yeah, and there’s something about taxes and keeping receipts that you should know. I have a cool tin container filled with cell phone, gas, hydro, taxi, food, toilet paper and beige file folder receipts, along with the names of a couple of talented accountants who cost money. As soon as I know more, I’ll fill you in.

And that, my friends, is a provocative and revealing look into my brief life as a freelancer. I love it and you will, too. Okay, maybe not at first, but you will.

Pamela Davis is a freelance direct marketing consultant. She can be reached at 416-406-0622 or via email at pameladavis@sympatico.ca. Any freelancers, new or veteran, who are interested in meeting for some support, laughs and tax research are welcome to get in touch. Her web site is www3.sympatico.ca/ pameladavis.