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Ever Had Freelance Moments Like This?

(Apologies for the LONG hiatus from the blog. Been up to my neck in selling my home of 26 years, shedding tons of stuff, packing, moving to a much smaller place (very liberating…), and getting settled in. So, to ease back in, I thought I’d keep it light…).

So, a few weeks back, a dear friend and fellow commercial writer out in the Midwest, shared a snapshot moment of “singledom” that was truly laugh-out-loud funny. She wrote:

Occasionally, I get a startling mental snapshot of my life as a single person as I go about my day. This morning, the one I took was of breakfast, at 12:15 p.m., consisting of coffee with last-resort powdered skim milk and farmer’s market croutons (big and hard!) dipped in foie gras mousse, followed by morning meds washed down with the wine left in the glass from last night.

Time to buy some real groceries…

I couldn’t help but think this hilarious account could just as easily have come from a freelancer, working out of their home, and living that more…unstructured existence that in my mind anyway, is one of the biggest pluses (and yes, one of the most formidable challenges) of the life of a freelance commercial writer.

Anyway, it got me thinking… We’ve all no doubt had those moments that epitomize the freelance life—moments that make us laugh or cause us to be grateful, or happy, or fulfilled, or serene, or giddy, or yes, frustrated.

For me, one of them is that transcendently contented feeling of waking up and hearing people outside get in their cars and drive to work, knowing it’s nothing I’ll ever have to make a habit of.

It’s the immensely gratifying feeling of being able to take good care of my health, through regular, non-rushed meals I make, and the time to exercise.

It’s knowing, workload permitting, that I make the decisions about when I take time off, and for how long.

What experiences have you had as a freelancer that spawn any of the reactions above?

What do you love most about this life?

If you’re not living the life yet, what do you most look forward to?

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17 replies
  1. Cathy Miller
    Cathy Miller says:

    I have often shared that freelancing saved my life – literally. In the last few years of my corporate days, I experienced chest pain on a daily basis. Miraculously, it left completely the day I quit. Never to come back again. The first year of freelancing was more about healing – mentally and physically. I love the freedom freelancing gives me to take my daily 5-7 mile walks. And I REALLY love that my commute is from my bedroom to my home office. :-)

  2. Peter Bowerman
    Peter Bowerman says:

    How cool is that, Cathy? Freelancing is definitely good for your health – very happy you made the leap in the nick of time! (not 1/10th as happy as you are, no doubt…).

    And I had to chuckle at your commute comment… I used to make myself very unpopular with my salaried-job friends, by saying I was thinking of cutting my commute time in half by moving my bed 10 feet closer to my office… 😉

  3. Jake Poinier
    Jake Poinier says:

    I love being able to go play hockey at lunchtime. A few Valentine’s Days ago, I blogged something like 30 things I love about freelancing, but they all come back to freedom.

    I wasn’t suffering chest pains like Cathy at my last corporate job, but it was getting tougher and tougher to get out of bed–which is saying something, as a lifelong early riser. Now I actually have a tough time staying in bed, because my brain starts thinking about what I want to get done that day.

  4. Lori
    Lori says:

    Like you, Peter, I listen to the traffic and know my “commute” through the foyer to the study is golden.

    My moments are shutting the computer down at 3 pm because I want to exercise. Or spending lunchtime in Valley Forge Park walking. Or just shaking my head in utter amazement whenever I realize I’m earning a damn good living at something I love doing.

    Like Cathy and Jake, the idea of getting up and going to work turned ugly. It happened for me the minute a new editor-in-chief was hired. I went from loving my job to hating it within a week. There was no team any longer — they’d all left. It was the new guy, who did NOT like women, and me. Then he hired the new managing editor (not me, obviously) — a man — and I was toast.

    The day I was fired was actually the best day of my life. I’ve never looked back on that time with anything but a thankful attitude. I don’t have to sell my soul or do any boot-licking just to do my job. I do it, and I’m paid much more than I was when I was senior editor.

  5. Peter Bowerman
    Peter Bowerman says:

    Thanks Jake and Lori!

    You’re right, Jake, we can quantify the joys in many ways but they mostly come down to freedom in all its variations—both a bunch of “freedom to’s” AND “freedom from’s”! And what a beautiful thing “an active mind on waking” is…;) You know you’re on the right life path, and certainly a path that precious few folks actually experience, which is terribly sad.

    Thanks Lori, and yes, it is amazing to enjoy what you do AND get paid well for it. Of course, the unspoken is the other side of the equation: the ability to get out there and effectively let the world know who you are and how you can use your skills to help them succeed.

    I devoted the January 2016 “Appetizer” course in the ezine to a review of “The Art of the Sale,” a wonderful book that should be required reading for anyone considering trying to turn what they love to do into a viable living. One of the things I loved most about the book was that it gives sales its rightful place in the calculus of a fulfilled professional life.

    One passage encapsulated that: “Selling…is a crucial part of meeting one’s own needs. We sell not just for the sake of it, but as a means to achieving what we want out of life. For some that will be money and the comfort and status it brings. For others, selling is an act of commercializing a particular talent. A painter sells his work so he can continue to paint without going broke or hungry, so he can paint and not lead the frustrated life of a moving man, short-order cook, or accountant, his true passion relegated to evenings and weekends in the basement.”

    And later, an even pithier takeway (emphasis mine): “Selling…was a means to escape the jaws of industrialized commerce. It was how you could live in a modern, capitalist society, while doing exactly what you wanted to do.”

    Love that. AND, when you do, life can be pretty damn good.

  6. Sarah Handzel
    Sarah Handzel says:

    Hello everybody! Just starting out as a freelancer…still working my 9-5 and building the business on the side, starting this month…but the freedom to live my life how I want, when I want is my main motivator! So, so done with this corporate BS. Can’t wait to get to where you all are – one day, hopefully sooner rather than later.

  7. Jennifer Polk
    Jennifer Polk says:

    I find I’m still an early riser, up by 7, but what I love most is that my day doesn’t begin with a rush. I might well be at my desk doing some work by 7:15, but thanks to not having to rush around to get out the door and to a workplace, my stress level stays pretty low. A lot of days I won’t get to the shower until right before lunch but that’s ok – by then I’ve done most of my work and the rest of the day is mine.

  8. Liz Morley
    Liz Morley says:

    I didn’t voluntarily escape the corporate world. I got laid off for the fifth time. I got a business license when my company changed hands, and I had no confidence in the new owner’s ability to keep the doors open. I was also getting too old to keep up the pace of doing two people’s jobs.

    Things would be better if I had some clients. I have made one or two thousand cold calls, attended networking events, sent hundreds of cold and warm e-mails, connected with people on LinkedIn, joined copywriting groups on Facebook, and handed out business cards to every acquaintance I meet. I even wasted a week learning how to use Elance before it became Upwork. I used an online job board. I got a ridiculous offer to write reviews of $3000 products for $90. Meanwhile we are working for a temp agency at night and barely paying the bills.

    Networking events put me in touch with people who have no clue what I do, and no budget to pay for it. I attended one expensive networking event for ad agency people. I’ve been with Toastmasters and know how to network, but this group was like an iceberg.

    When I do get a live voice, or hear back from people in the advertising/PR/media community, they tell me they have their own sources and do not use outside copy writers. Outside of the creative community, decision makers either don’t use copy, or tell me they already have agencies to provide them with copy writing.

    I get conflicting feedback. One copy writer told me it takes hundreds of calls to get established. A boutique agency owner told me cold calls are useless. She and her husband built their business through years and years of extensive volunteer work, serving on committees, giving free presentations, etc. I can barely find time to mow the lawn.

    Some of the mistakes I have made so far:
    Reading business and copywriting books instead of just making more phone calls
    Not being more aggressive on the phone
    Using full sentences in e-mail headers
    Leaving voicemail messages that clearly indicate why I am calling

  9. Star Lawrence
    Star Lawrence says:

    Happy snaps: (1) The Freelance Fair that SNAP used to hold in DC–we had tables of our materials just like in real exhibit halls. (2) Getting paid 100% in advance once when I really needed it. (3) Writing a slogan (which I now forget) that was on the back of DC buses for years. (4) Time for a drink in a real bar before walking to get my kid from school (I wonder now if the other parents wondered about that, but it was good at the time). (5) Time to go to all school functions–one time at the Air & Space Museum, Harrison Ford was trying to have a private day and our bunch descended and his people had to speak to our people and I was our people. Never met Harrison, though, but he looked small and ordinary like someone walking out of Walmart. His son was cute.

    Bad no-good snaps: (1) Coming up with a hundred ways to collect invoices–one was to have my ex- call and make ominous comments in a Mafia voice. (2) Writing about reporters once (would not do it now) and having to hide in the bathroom at the issue launch party because they were so mad at me, all saying they were misquoted (sorry, they weren’t). (3) Almost being locked up in a local prison while shadowing Jeane Dixon–they found a jacknife in my purse. Truly I had never seen it before. (4) Being sued by a horde of Greek-American lawyers (I won). (5) Eating goat meat with the food critic of the Wash Post. Yuh-um! Congrats on moving, Peter–huge undertaking. I look back on moving from DC to AZ and wonder how I did it.

  10. Craig C
    Craig C says:

    Your lead in about single/freelance life made me chuckle and reminded me of a joke that I heard comedian Rick Hall tell years ago. He said something like, ” I remember the good old days of being single when i could do whatever i wanted. You know, like standing over the sink eating a Cheerio and hotdog casserole out of a frisbee using a shoehorn.”

  11. Peter Bowerman
    Peter Bowerman says:

    Thanks all,

    Good stuff, Star, the good and the bad, and there’s plenty of both. You’ve clearly had a rich and varied freelance experience (and life in general). May we all be that fortunate!

    Craig, hilarious line, and right up the same alley (and yes, I can absolutely relate…;)

    Thanks Liz, and sorry you’ve had a tough time getting established. There will always be conflicting advice from freelancers, since people come at this thing from so many different angles, backgrounds, perspectives, resumes, and relative comfort levels with different prospecting strategies.

    Cold calling definitely works. May not work for the people who told you it didn’t (and more importantly, it may not be a match for their temperament), but to make some blanket statement like that is silly. I hear from people every week who built their business with it, and of course, I’m living proof that it works. Assuming you’re targeting the right types of people, to say it doesn’t work is to imply that the Law of Averages has been revoked (more silliness).

    Truth is, the overwhelming bulk of people you call or cross paths with in the business world will NOT need our services, so the fact that you’ve come across so many people who’ve told you they don’t need what you’re offering, and for any number of a wide variety of reasons, doesn’t surprise me in the least. It’s a matter of finding those who do.

    And they’re absolutely, positively, no question about it, out there, and in enough numbers to provide a healthy living for so many of us. As such, and without analyzing your process, it’s next to impossible to say why you’re struggling. I didn’t hear any mention of a web site. You do have one, yes? That’s a pretty much non-negotiable baseline requirement to be taken seriously, and it makes your marketing a lot easier.

    I agree that endlessly reading business and copywriting books would be a mistake, but if you’re getting started in an arena you know little about, educating yourself is a key part of the process.

    And not being more aggressive on the phone is a mistake? Not sure what you mean by that, but if you feel you have to be aggressive on the phone, your thinking is off. It’s simply a matter of looking for a match between your skills and a prospect’s needs.

    If you mean asking more questions to uncover those needs, perhaps, but, at the same time, what we do is pretty easy to explain, and whomever you call, if they’re a marketing person, or a businessperson with a small to medium-sized business, they’re going to know pretty quickly whether they’re a prospect for what we have. And if they perceive they’re not (even though they might be), being aggressive won’t, as a rule, be effective in making them “see the light.” They’re are enough others out there, so move on.

    Thanks for all the input!

    PB

  12. Fred
    Fred says:

    No commuting. No cubicles. Complete location flexibility. Travel. Just a few of the things I love about working as a freelancer!

  13. Star
    Star says:

    I would add to that no pantyhose, barefeet, clapped out shorts (but a nice top, makeup and jewelry), news breaks, long calls with friends (yes, telephone calls–that thing also works for voice communication), and time for the pets (who often sit right on the desk angling for a snack and a massage).

  14. Liz Morley
    Liz Morley says:

    Yes, I have had a website at lizmorley.biz since the beginning. BTW past clients have allowed me to e-mail samples of my work, but not to post it on their websites.

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