[Written by Joycee Choong]
[Image by Kate Zápražná]
From freelancing to zero-hour contracts, extended internships to the gig economy, ‘non-traditional’ jobs are increasingly common. This series of articles will focus on how people experience these different roles; how it’s affecting their views on life and work; whether they feel it’s positive, negative, fun, scary, or maybe a combination of those things? To start things off, we have a contribution from Joycee, who writes about what she has learned since she started freelancing.
Joycee Choong – Freelancer
First thing’s first, I’m the realest — I have not been freelancing for a long time. In fact, I coined myself a freelancer the day I had to create a writing portfolio, and I realised I’d essentially been working for a few people on a few things in my own time, and getting paid (a little) for it. This was, by the time this gets published, four months ago, and I have not turned back since, although I’ve looked back and inward a whole lot.
I’ve reflected quite a bit on the journey freelance writing has taken me on, and the hard real-life career-oriented lessons it has taught me. I have made some painful, embarrassing mistakes. They may be unique to me; I kind of hope it isn’t so you can learn, relate or commiserate. Word.
- Take criticism with a pinch of salt.
- Stand by your own views, opinions and work, be open to criticism but be aware of what needs to be worked on and what doesn’t.
- There are people out there who may not be making comments for your improvement, but for the expression of their own opinion. You should acknowledge it but not take it to heart. Be aware!
- You represent more than just yourself.
- Working by yourself, it may be difficult to picture the other people working within the organisation. But there are, and you represent not only yourself but others running it as well.
- Manage your own time. They can’t see what you have going on, they only see the product.
- This seems almost unnecessary to say, but stick to a deadline, or even better, create your own deadlines and stick to those. The best case scenario is you submit work early, at the very worst you miss your own deadline but meet your employer’s.
- There are people on the other side that may have to look through your work and edit it, provide some sort of constructive feedback for you to work on that takes up their time as well. Don’t just work on your own time but be aware of others that are working with you.
- Juggling school commitments and freelance work can be a struggle. Having to do work while others are out or just chilling is tiring but since you’re in it, keep your own goals in mind — whether it be bulking up your CV, gaining experience and connections in your field or earning money.
- Know your worth, and with that, learn how to make an invoice.
- You’ve probably seen articles online railing at “employers” requesting free freelance work for “exposure”. I have written quite a bit for free for online publications, from clickbait listicles to media interviews. I don’t think I could have expected anyone to hire a first-year university student with little to no knowledge of online publications. Compensation would have been nice, but it was all new to me, and I was in fact looking for exposure.
- So know your worth. As your portfolio grows, as you get to know more people and the industry standard (something I’m still working on myself!), you will have a better grasp of what you should be paid.
- Google “freelance invoice template”, familiarise yourself with them and create your own template. Keep track of who needs to pay you what. Be sure to check that payments have been made.
- I usually give employers up to a month to fulfil these invoices, but from my limited experience with some great employers, they do it pretty much immediately.
- Be responsive over email or text.
- It’s always good to be able to reply an email promptly. But if you can’t, I prefer to take the time to provide a considered response rather than a cursory acknowledgement. No one likes email spam, and the responsibility remains with you for a proper reply.
- Forgive yourself and learn from your mistakes.
- I am one to take career mistakes quite hard. And while it is a reflection of my own working habits, I have found that taking them too hard is unhelpful; on the contrary it pushes me a step back. Rather than spiralling into an existential crisis of confidence, I suggest trying to look at things in perspective: this is a learning journey. So yes, you will make mistakes, yes your employer may now need to think harder if they want to consider you for another role, but you have learnt and you can now improve, whether with your current employers or future employers. It’s a cliche that the great Hannah Montana herself made ubiquitous — nobody’s perfect, you’re gonna work it, again and again till you get it right. Yes, I memorised it, and yes, it is applicable even to you.
[Image description: A turquoise background with the simplified design of a laptop and a yellow vase with two stalks with leaves in it.]