Living with Uncertainties as a Freelancer

Living with Uncertainties as a Freelancer

I want to talk about something that nobody is openly discussing. Freelancing is not all rainbows and unicorns. It’s not even all roses if that’s your thing. Being a freelancer is not at all dreamy. If you want to become a freelancer, you need to live with constant uncertainty.

I ended 2019 (and also started 2020) with anxiety. There were times when I woke up in the middle of the night wondering if I’ll make it. Then, I’ll cry and not get back to sleep. I would cry and get mad at everyone almost always in a cycle. I didn’t want to go out and hang out with friends. Furthermore, I didn’t want to talk to anyone about what I was going through. Every single day, I was living in fear. I kept my thoughts (and fears) to myself and I wasn’t holding everything pretty well.

Uncertainty is the norm for a freelancer, usually. Projects and clients come and go. Just like working in a normal nine-to-five, you have no security. However, with being a freelancer, the risks are higher. Some projects tend to be short-lived. There are times when your services are no longer needed or the clients’ needs have changed. You just have to be comfortable living with risks and dealing with uncertainties.

My story

One retainer project ended last year and I was worried as hell. I worried that I might not be able to save enough or pay my bills. But that’s not the entire picture. I still have two retainer clients and another on-going non-urgent project that I am working on. It’s not the end of the world, but I panicked because I might not reach my target income that allowed me to live (i.e., save and pay) comfortably.

A funny thing happened. When that retainer project ended, other projects came unexpectedly. I got short-term writing projects that allowed me to earn that same amount I lost (or even more). For this, I am thankful to the Universe (and to former clients who still trust me through the years). When one short-term project ends, another one came. Always. Then, I realize I panicked for no reason at all.

I also had emergency funds that covered the lost income. This allowed me to pursue projects that paid at a later date. Had I not saved enough; I would probably be fucked for real. However, I will have to replenish the funds I took out to prepare for a similar situation in the future.

The ebb and flow

Freelancing has its ebb and flow. There will be good months where you’re fully booked and blessed with paying clients. However, not everyone talks about the slow months where it takes you weeks to find a project that fills your work schedule and pays the bills. These months are real. They’re too real. You either learn to live and deal with these slow months or you let this break you.

Unless you’re okay with this, you should not jump into the sea of freelancing. Sorry to break it to you, honey. Clients and projects don’t just magically appear in your inboxes. You have to put in the work. You need to create your profile, build your portfolio, and be searchable. In short, you need to put yourself out there. Work has to be done.

Dealing with uncertainties

To deal with these uncertainties, you need to take measures. You need to prepare yourself. You should have money saved to cover for the slow weeks or months. Having three to six months of expenses as your emergency fund is a good start. This will give you enough time to search for another project while making sure that the bills are paid.

On the good months, it’s important to save all the extra for the slow months. Always budget for the worst. If possible save most, if not all, for your emergency fund. This is your top priority if you’re starting in the freelancing world.

Aside from that, you need to mentally prepare yourself. I thought I was ready for this to happen, but it turned out I wasn’t. I was devastated. Unfortunately, I still have this tendency to equate my self-worth with the work that I do. With one project ending, I battled with my demons. I thought I wasn’t good enough. I sulked and went on a rage. Later on, I realized that part of this ebb and flow is acceptance and letting go. It wasn’t as easy as meditating or practicing yoga. Real life can be harder than it seemed.

Getting by

To be honest, I am just starting to get out of my anxiety-ridden funk. It has been two months of sleeplessness and dealing with my demons. I have skipped dinners and gatherings with friends because I wasn’t “well.” I’ve been living in my head for too long. Then, I realized that things will work out eventually.

I am currently working on other projects that allow me to earn back the income that I have lost. I am still creating backup plans and striving to work my way out of this rut. It’s not easy but it’s not something I cannot do. I am trying to get by. I am trusting the Universe while making sure that I also do my part.

Do not follow your passion

Do not follow your passion

As I’m writing this, I have a bajillion of stuff to do which are mostly due in a few hours. But I feel like I need to get this off my chest so I can move on with my work. I have been a freelancer for more than seven months. I wish I could tell you that it has been easy for me to follow my passion and work for myself. However, it’s just the beginning of this journey.

We often hear this advice a lot: follow your passion. Another is: if you do what you love, you won’t work a single day. It’s so easy to fall for the idea that once you do what you love, everything’s easier from there. Maybe to a point, it is, but that’s not the entire picture.

You need to work

When you start following your passion, you realize that there’s more work to be done. You will spend long hours getting tasks done. You realize that there are a lot of things to learn and that there are people who are way better at you. When you follow your passion, you cannot sit on your laurels. You have to put in time and effort to be good at what you do. Talent is not an excuse to take it easy. There are others who put in much more because they don’t have the talent. But, these people tend to succeed because they put in the work.

Passion will die

Take note that passion’s fire will eventually die out. At first, it is will be fiery. The excitement will consume you and you will come home inspired every night. However, there will be days when you’ll feel awful and you have zero inspiration for work. There will be feelings of highs and lows. It won’t be all highs until forever. Wouldn’t life be easier that way? Then again, you need to deliver and do your part. More often than not, you need to push hard even when the flame is barely burning bright.

Deal with shit

If you want to follow your passion, find the shit that you want to deal with. Make sure you tread a path wherein you’re willing to go through the detours, the bumpy roads, and the humps. When you follow your passion, there will be a lot of crossroads. Often, it’s easier to fall back into your old comfortable life especially when you’re facing problems. Doing what you love doesn’t mean there’s absence of difficulties. Doing what you love means to “drudge through the drudgery.”

You do not follow your passion to have an easy life. You follow it, so you can live a life that’s entirely your own. It is rarely a walk in the park. Often, it is a slow jog uphill where the roads are unpaved and grassy or even shitty. You just have to stick with it and believe that better things are coming. You have to trust that in the end, it’s going to be worth it. If you are not willing to go through all those, then you’re not ready for anything.

Accept Where You Are

Accept Where You Are

Once you open any of your social media accounts, it is easy to fall into a rabbit hole. You start scrolling down your newsfeed looking at the latest travel photos from friends. You start liking photos of their pets or of their newest gadgets. Their selfies look amazing, too! Although there is nothing inherently wrong with social media, you start comparing your uneventful life to theirs. It is easy to fall into this loop. It can somehow feel like a trap.

Though it’s natural to compare yourself to your friends, you know it’s doing harm than good. Before you start diving into these thoughts, just stop! It might be difficult, but accept where you are. Your own journey is unique and cannot be compared to others’.

Life is a journey and not a destination. It is fine to want a certain degree of happiness, success, and material possessions, but don’t derail yourself from the real essence of living. Life is all about growth, experience, and contribution. We all have different experiences that all add up to who we are and who we become. Each has his own path to take. At the end of it all, in life, it’s the trek that matters.

Like most journeys, each one is unique. Some get the direct trips, others have pitstops, but most get detours. A friend might be currently living a carefree life globe-trotting for years while another might be trying to settle down with a good career and a new house. Each has his own unique journey and you have yours, too. It can be easy to feel envious, but you don’t have to if you know the path where you’re going. If you are aware of the direction you’re heading, then there’s no need to be jealous.

You might be struggling right now, looking for the answers. But, we’re not in a time-bound contest. It’s always okay to start all over. It’s always okay to be struggling, as long as you’re progressing in some way. Accept where you are and accept your struggles. These are the things that make your own journey unique.

It might not be easy, but respect yourself enough to accept your journey. Be busy looking at the road while you’re driving. You don’t have the luxury to check other people’s roads. Your life needs to be lived and experienced. It’s yours and yours alone.

Success: Make it your own

Success: Make it your own

Success is mandatory. Or, is it? We all hear and read about how to be successful before you turn a specific age. We’re bombarded by articles, books, and podcasts on how to be successful. It’s the same story in a different format all the time.

We all get swallowed by societal expectations. Sometimes, we lose ourselves in the process. Our own personal world gets muddled up with the ones around us. The Minimalists’ essay, Successfool,  gives great insight that the cushy paycheck or nice car does not define success.

Ask yourself the hard questions. What is it that gives your life meaning? Is it working that 9-to-5 and bringing home the bacon to your family? Is it climbing up the corporate ladder and being a C-level executive by the time you hit 40? If it is, then it’s well and good. Just don’t confuse what you want with what the world expects of you.

However, don’t be afraid to want what you want. Do you want more dogs to make you happy? Then, go for it! Do you want more time with your family and kids? Surely, you have to make some adjustments. Do you want to become a hermit and start your own bee farm? Then, start inching your way towards that journey. Just because something different from what society tells you, doesn’t mean you’re wrong.

But, knowing what you want is one thing. The doing process is another. Once you’ve identified what success means to you, then do something about it. You don’t have to make drastic changes. A little goes a long way. Sometimes, a little pivot allows you to grow exponentially.

Dare to define your own success. Find a version that sets you free. You don’t have to fit in a mold just like everyone else. Later on, you’ll just find yourself miserable. What’s important is finding joy and meaning in your life. That is what’s life about, isn’t it? And, you do have to accept that this can be different than most people’s.

I guess this is me talking to myself in a way that I should’ve years ago. As my birthday draws nearer, I am quite at peace now than I was last year or the year before that. Previously, every birthday was a roller-coaster ride of emotions. I was always depressive, contemplating how I don’t measure up with my peers or with my own expectations. But, I didn’t realize those measurements were non-existent. I can choose whatever measurement that I want. I didn’t realize that until I quit corporate.

My success now means being able to focus on my health. I thrive in the flexibility that my projects afford me. I can easily leave the city for some nights out-of-town. Today, I can accompany my mom to her doctor’s appointments. I am able to find time for the things that really matter to me. Unfortunately, this is a more difficult road. However, I am not in any way regretting the path I took. I know I am truly living the life that I want.

The bottom line is find what feels right. Find what it is that resonates best with you. Make success your own, not someone else’s. It may not be easy, but at least it yours.

I Just Quit

I Just Quit

I am writing this at my favorite co-working place in Ramos sipping my coffee and waiting for the long weekend to come. I have just rendered my last days at the office and starting tomorrow, I will be working for myself. Yes, I’ve quit.

For those who know me and who have seen me switch companies and careers over the last three years, this might come as a shocker. Yes, I’ve met a few former co-workers who have expressed disbelief when I told them I have talked to my boss and given my resignation letter. I am expecting others to be shocked with this decision. Even my own family has stopped talking me out of my decision to quit. Somehow, I am even appalled with my own decisiveness. The me last year would’ve been horrified and would’ve talked myself out. But, the decision has been made and I’m embracing the risks involved.

I have quit. But, not like the usual quit-then-move-on-to-the-next-company kind of thing. I have quit corporate life. It seems so unlike me to do this. Last year, I have set up some goals for myself: be a manager (ticked off), take MBA, and so on. My crisis last year has led me to focus on my career and in climbing the corporate ladder. As I slowly ticked off my list, I started to become emptier. I felt that the more time I spent at the office, the unhappier I became. I looked forward to weekends where I can write and do something more creative. My health was also affected. I was sick more often and my voice was hoarse longer than expected. My unhappiness and my degrading health were not the things I aspired for. I wanted to be happy. That’s all.

And as I started some side projects and met with other people, I realized I have abandoned the dreams that I have dreamt years ago for myself. I forgot that my main goal for this year was to have time for the side projects that fueled me and kept me going. What is life when you’re perpetually unhappy? And so, I took the plunge. Here I am now, scared with the unclear plans I have for myself but I’m just winging it.

Who am I pleasing by reaching my goals? Are those the secret to happiness? Are those really what I want? Is it what society is expecting of me? Will that give meaning to my long sleepless nights? Those questions keep running in my head. I have now decided to live life on my terms. I am now in charge of my life and of where I am heading.

I remember the moment my mother gave up on talking me out of my decision, she said: “Do what you want, as long as you can sustain yourself.” I think that was all I needed to hear. As long as I am happy and sailing myself to the life that I want, I guess it’ll all work out. If it doesn’t, then I can just adjust my sails and keep on trying.

On a blank slate

On a blank slate

When all of the pieces have shattered, I guess there’s no way around it but be naked. You are too broken to be fixed, what’s there to be fearful of?
There’s always room for redemption, no matter what the situation is. Every day is an opportunity for a beginning. Every moment is a chance to get up and do it all over again. You can always find a blank slate and start doodling. Find as many slates as you need. There’s no prescribed magic number.
No matter what people say, tread your own path. Start the journey. They are not living your life, so what right do they have to tell you how to live? They do not experience your pains, what right do they have to tell you what’s right and wrong? At the end of it all, the rightness or wrongness of things is purely subjective. It’s all up to you.
Once you get on the road, once you start baring it all, owe up to every turn and detour. Take the more difficult path and accept responsibility for your actions. Be the bold one and live a life that’s yours.
This is my blank slate. It’s just the beginning.