Everyone’s asked themselves that age old question, the one that sits in the back of your mind most of your young adult life but you’re almost too afraid to say it out loud; could I make it as a freelancer? Because my life would be so much better if I were freelance, right?
You’re *insert age here* and you love what you do, but there are certain constraints to the job that just don’t make you happy, and working for yourself may solve most of these head scratching problems. Maybe you know someone else in your field who went freelance and they’re bossing it. Or maybe it’s just always been you dream to own your own business, but the idea of actually doing it just fills you with nervous energy.
Believe it or not, I have been there; back in 2013 when I graduated University there was nothing that filled me with more dread than logging onto that HMRC portal and signing up as a registered business. Forging those initial pathways as a photographer was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. There aren’t too many employable options; you could go in-house for someone, but then depending on the company or brand your options for growth are quite limited. Or you could assist a more mature photographer with gallons of experience, and trust me I did my fair share of assisting, but following someone around with light boxes and picking up lunch orders was never really for me. My only ever real or plausible option was going freelance, but I don’t think I ever realised what that truly meant until I was in the thick of it.
“But Georgie, why are you writing this now? No one wants to hear about you or your story” I can hear my inner critic calling out to me. Do you have an inner critic? This is something that resonated with me from one of my female business-boss idols Lola Hoad (of the *One Girl Band podcast). She talks about her inner critic, Barb, and how every freelancer has that internal voice that is forever berating every creative or brilliant idea you ever have. Well, my inner critic is more of a Helen; whenever Helen creeps up and tells me I’m not good, strong or intelligent enough to own my own business or be successful in the thing I am passionate about, I have to take a deep breath, acknowledge how I’m feeling, but remember how sodding important it is I push on anyway.
I’m pretty sure this realism is one that every business owner has, embracing failure but just doing it anyway. Because if you don’t do those things that fulfil you, are you ever really living?
I’ve had countless of those rock-bottom moments when you’re not quite sure what you’re doing with your life. Having to deal with imposter syndrome on a daily basis, not knowing if you’ll make your next mortgage bill, questioning your worth, eating beans on toast for the fifth time that week, having a screaming match with your parent/friend/significant other because you’ve worked another 13 hour day and they just want to spend a little time with you, but you’ve still got so much work to do. Sound familiar?
Freelancing is so often glamourised to be different than what it really is; the grass is greener kind of attitude, and that most of it is easy-living. I refuse to sell you that rose-tinted dream. Since my **podcast interview with my beautiful friend Kat Horrocks so many truly talented individuals have approached me to tell me how inspiring I am, how they look up to me and my achievements, and how they hope to be as successful as I am one day. This is flattering, and fills me with so much joy I’m almost bursting at the seams. I want to inspire you to set your sights high, but make sure you’re prepared for change and constant learning. Be proud of your growth and also be prepared for those pitfalls along the way.
You will have to learn so many elements of business to become a freelancer, as I have done. This has only made me stronger and feathered the strings to my bow. I am not just a photographer; I am a businesswoman, accountant, marketeer, social media guru, events coordinator, networker, copyrighter, debt collector… you can imagine the list goes on.
Yet I am still learning every day.
There is no end game and there is no final major project. I can hear the words of my lecturer Trudie ringing in my ears: “Do you ever really stop learning? Your final major project is not your final project here at University, it’s the very last thing you do before you die…” and if you think you’re the best, will you ever really grow to be more? You need to learn to not be bullied by your inner critic but also to never get too big for your boots.
Being freelance really is a rollercoaster. I do hope that each and every one of you who aspires to own your own business achieves your goals, and that your dreams of being freelance really do come true. But I feel like I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t warn you how fucking terrifying it is at times.
Does this make it not worth it?
Do I wish I’d taken an easier path with my life?
Do I regret being freelance?
Not one single day.
All images in this post are shot by the extremely talented Adriana at @Adrianasphoto