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.

Nurturing Gratefulness

Nurturing Gratefulness

I’m taking a quick break from a busy day to write down my thoughts before I go mental. Life has been a drag. I’ve been hating myself more than usual. I haven’t been sleeping well. My anxiety is through the roof. However, I am doing my best to create space for gratefulness.

It can be too easy to write a list of every little thing I hate about my life. That is such a no brainer. I am especially hard on myself; so on a day-to-day basis, I just hate everything. This voice inside my head tells me I can do better or things should be better. It triggers me to hate the things I cannot have or cannot do.

I hate that I cannot work longer so I can earn more. If I work harder and longer, I can achieve x or y. I hate that I cannot do my headstand perfectly. If only I have enough arm and core strength, it might not be a problem to execute difficult yoga poses. I hate that I need eight hours of sleep to function properly. If I do not get enough sleep, I will just be grumpy the entire day. I hate how sickly I am. My immune system has always been bad since I was a kid. You get it. The list goes on.

I try to be kind to myself. I meditate and do yoga to remind myself that I matter in a space full of other people. Unfortunately, the inner critic gets the best of me. On most days, I tend to listen to the voice. I wallow up on my self-pity and allow hatred to take over me.

Today, I am taking the time to have a heart that’s full of gratefulness.

I am grateful for clients who have been nothing but kind. I am lucky to have found dream clients who send me gifts on my birthday or ask me how my doctor’s appointment went. My projects have allowed me to earn and save for my little wants and needs. Despite wanting more, I am lucky for having the opportunity to pursue my little desires and to have more than what I what need.  I am still able to travel when I can, purchase workout gear when the need arises, gift my family and friends just because, and eat deliciously when I crave for it.

I am grateful for the wonderful connections I have. Some of them have led me to projects and to people that shaped me to become who I am today. It seems that my path, despite how crazy it was, led me to a life that it is imperfectly perfect. I know I am better off now than I was when I began my unconventional path.

Ten years ago, I dreamed of having the things I now have. Back then, I never imagined I could achieve them. It was just a hope, a little wish. It was just a maybe, a thought that was floating around in my head. Now that I currently have more than I did years ago, it can be easy to take things for granted. It is too easy to want more. I forgot the rough road I had the take and the hardships I hade to endure to get me to where I am. I got used to the shiny object I once wanted that suddenly I just hungered for more. This downward-spiral of unhappiness and discontent drove me crazy. I was no longer counting my blessings. Instead, I was counting all the reasons why my life is “wrong.”

By writing this, I want to remind myself that life has been better. It may not be exactly how I want it to be, but I have what I need and so much more. I know I could do better. There is always room for growth and improvement, but I don’t have to be angry. Life unfolds when it’s time to unfold. There’s no need to rush and be so hard on myself.

I admit it can be difficult to have that wee bit of gratefulness when all I see are things that are not going my way. However, I try. I am human after all. I stumble. Then, I try again. Above all, I keep trying to make space for gratefulness in a heart that is weak but continuously hopeful.

Six things I wish I did before I started freelancing

Six things I wish I did before I started freelancing
It’s been more than a year since I left my corporate job and started freelancing. I’ve had quite the adventure from having zero plans when I started to now trying to get my shit together. My life has been a crazy ride ever since but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Well, there might be a few changes I would have done (financially) just so I got my ass covered. If I could go back in time just to do things right, I will do these six things before I went and jumped into the freelance ship.

Have a buffer

A buffer could be an extra amount of money that you have to prevent you from overdrafting (if you have a checking account). However, you can use buffer differently as an extra wiggle room for when you have miscellaneous or unexpected expenses. How I see buffer, as a freelancer, is having extra money to cover you for a month’s (or less) necessary expenses in case the check didn’t come through yet. The problem with freelancing is that you’re not quite sure if you’ll have the same earnings every month. Every client is different. I never had a buffer and I just discovered what a buffer is this year after reading an article from The Simple Dollar. As a freelancer, this would be something great to have as a the-client’s-pay-didn’t-come-through-yet money.

Have an emergency fund

This I’ve known for years. Many financial bloggers advise having at least three to six months of living expenses as an emergency fund. The bigger your emergency fund, the better. This emergency fund should cover events, like hospitalization or when you’re suddenly out of job. The key here: emergency. It shouldn’t be touched to buy that new iPhone or that nice dress from Zara.

When I resigned, I only had a little over a month of emergency fund sitting in my bank. Though it did help a lot during my first month out of corporate, it would have been better to have more. I got lucky and found a project just a week before my last day at the office which was amazing. I also found another paying gig two weeks after that. So a few weeks in, I already had enough money for my monthly expenses. It was a miracle. Unfortunately, I exhausted all my funds at that time. Now, I’m slowly rebuilding my emergency fund (along with other savings).

Pay off all debts

I had a big sum of (credit card) debt even before I quit my job. This was the result of bad financial management in my youth, despite knowing better. My parents berated me for months when they knew of my financial sins. My mom asked me to close my accounts and I had to pay them all. Quitting my job made it worse. Without a stable monthly paycheck, it was more challenging to pay my bills. Truth be told, it was tough. On the flip side, I already paid one credit card account in full (while I was freelancing). It was an achievement on my part. Now, I’m on my way to pay off the last one.

Have a few freelancing projects before resigning

Get your toes wet first, if possible. This is probably the most important test to see if you could handle the freelance life. Make sure that you have bankable skills that you could use as a freelancer. If you know designing and graphics, you could easily find projects online for designers. VA jobs are also in demand right now and are relatively easy to get. Utilize the skills that you have and find a job that you enjoy. By trying out freelancing jobs, you can maneuver how the online industry works. It’s definitely a skill to learn as well.

Start your retirement savings

This is something that’s good to start as soon as you get your first paycheck. I just started mine, so there’s no judgment if you don’t have this bit figured out yet. Once you have your emergency fund set up, work on your retirement savings. Don’t rely on social security to get you through your senior life. No, your future kids aren’t your escape plan. Have your retirement figured out as early as possible and you’ll thank yourself when you reach that age. It’s nice to think that you have yourself covered when you’re old and gray. Some people even save up super fast in order to retire earlier than 65.

Figure out a way to get insurance

Health insurance is one of the perks of working in a company. When you’re working for yourself, you only I have yourself to rely on. Find ways to get some sort of healthcare coverage when emergencies arise. I personally opted to pay voluntarily for my PhilHealth and join a cooperative that comes with basic health insurance. This is still not enough for someone who has health problems, like me. I’m still looking into getting prepaid healthcare insurance to beef up whatever coverage that I currently have. I cannot imagine burning a hole in my savings just because I didn’t prepare for health emergencies. This also includes preparing for death, so I just started a memorial plan just in case.

Although I am currently doing all these points right now, I wish I could’ve done them sooner to prevent certain challenges in my freelancing life. I just hope some people, who have been contemplating about being their own bosses, will find this helpful. It can be tempting to jump off the cliff too soon, especially when you’re already dragging yourself to work. However, just making sure you have an extra layer of (financial) security will help you sleep soundly at night.

Travel Alone

Travel Alone

Do yourself a favor. Travel alone. Go somewhere you’ve never been. Go someplace without a friend. You’ll have me to thank when your trip’s over and done with.You might have a heavy heart. You might not know which path to take. It might be a quarter-life crisis. It might be some needed soul-searching. No matter where you are in this life, a solo trip will help you get the clarity that you need.

How to travel alone

You might think, where to? You might think, how come? A solo trip will start daunting as it is. However, as you go on with your journey, you realize there’s nothing to be afraid of.

Take it slow, if it’s that scary. You don’t need to go too far. It also doesn’t have to take that long. A few days on an island five hours from your hometown might help. When you have the guts, take that plane ride plus an eight-hour bus ride to the paradise you’ve never been. What’s important is committing to that trip like it’s the only redemption you’ve got.

Travel alone, even if it scares you. Travel alone, even if no one supports you. Depend on yourself alone for once in your life. Then, you’ll definitely see that your worries are minuscule to that of the world.

Do it for you

You’re doing yourself a big favor. Travel alone for you and to you. It’s not for the ‘gram. It’s not for show. When you take that step out of your comfort zone, you see things you don’t normally see. You discover your own vulnerability. This allows you to be in new situations. You meet new faces. You see new places. This is where you start opening up to the world and the people around you.

When you travel alone, you get to be in your own thoughts often. You’re forced to address those things that you’ve put in the backburner. You’re able to see yourself in a new light. This pushes your limits.

What’s interesting is that there’s magic with every solo trip you take. It’s like leaving home a little torn, but coming back a little whole. You find the answers to the questions you never meant to ask. You discover the healing and rest that your weary heart needed. Sometimes, all these come from the strangers who are willing to open their arms for you.

Traveling alone is more about self-discovery. Once you’ve done it, you see the beauty in every trip that you take. Every journey is different. It is always unique. It brings you closer to yourself in different ways. You unearth a different side of you. Then, you’ll see it’s not so bad to be alone.

Looking Back at 2018

Looking Back at 2018

The year 2018 is almost coming to a close. Looking back, it was filled with (inside) turmoil and a lot of struggles. I broke down quite a lot this year without my friends knowing. I was confused and I thought I was treading the wrong path. It felt lonely and heavy at times. I was insecure and anxious for the most part. However, I have no one to blame but myself.

Getting my cards read

There was a time when I had my cards read by a good friend. I was at the point of breaking down again and had no one to turn to.

It was interesting how the cards showed the pain that I kept denying. They unveiled the misery that I kept close to myself. I was at my heaviest and I wanted to be done with everything. What nobody could tell, the cards showed. However, it added that my pain was my own doing. I was my own monster and that needed to be addressed.

After that, I felt a sense of lightness. I felt new. It was like a rock was lifted somewhere.

What I learned

Sometimes, you don’t have to keep it to yourself. One of my biggest mistakes in 2018 was bottling up my feelings. I thought no one understood me. I thought nobody would give a damn. However, I had friends. They were few, but I knew I could count on them when shit hit the fan.

Do not underestimate the power of self-care. It is not just about bubble bath and massages. It is about noticing the little things. Sometimes, self-care can be as simple as being kind to yourself. We are easily kind to other people but are harsher towards our own self.

My friend told me “inaction can also be a form of action.” That hit home. For people who knew me well, I hate being idle. I hate not doing anything. I was that person who NEEDED something to do. At least a little something. I always want fast results. However, I need to take my damn sweet time. Trust the process, even if it is really slow.

My 2018 goals

Of the 12 goals I had for 2018, I crossed off seven. It isn’t too bad when you think about it. I was shocked to have accomplished more than 50% of the goals I set out for myself when I typically tend to accomplish just 30% on a given year. I thought I was a loser this year. Somehow, that definition of loser has to be changed.

Looking back, I’ve gone far from where I started. Sometimes, you need to be grateful and constantly look for the little things to see how truly #blessed (pun intended!) you are. We are often too busy looking for the bigger things in life that we lose sight of the little things that matter most.

Moving forward

Despite all those challenges, the year ended on a good note. I am beyond grateful for everything that I currently have. I am still not where I want to be but I am getting there. The journey isn’t so bad when you let the rain come through. It’s not as awful as you think it is when you see through the struggles. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing.

As 2018 wanes and a new year waxes, here’s to moving forward. With a little bit of hope and a little bit of joy, we take another step. Here’s to happiness, contentment, and love! Cheers!

On a Self-Imposed Shopping Ban

On a Self-Imposed Shopping Ban

It’s already a year since I gave myself a (modified) clothing shopping ban. It was that time when I came to the realization that I didn’t want to work in an office anymore. It’s been almost a year since I quit my job with that fancy job title. I jumped into the abyss of working random bits as a freelancer.

With that transition, I wanted to change my ways (a little). Being a freelancer meant I won’t have a steady paycheck that would come on a set day. That also meant I couldn’t afford shopping sprees. On the flip side, since I’m a freelancer, I don’t need to be dressed to the nines at all times. I could just wear whatever unless I have in-person or face-to-face interviews for projects.

After I quit my job, I cut my wardrobe in half. I moved my dresses and other clothes for work or those that I rarely wear to the spare room. I wanted to do the capsule wardrobe, do the Project 333, or the 90/90 rule. However, I didn’t have enough willpower to do that. I was still trying to navigate this new lifestyle and I didn’t want to push myself too much that I’ll fail. I thought I’ll miss some of those dresses and I’ll be grabbing them back to my closet. But, I never even thought about them truth be told.

Within the year of that ban, I only bought two pairs of swimsuit, a pair of yoga pants, and some underwear. I controlled my urge to buy other clothing items. Heaven knows how much I want to buy some Topshop Joni jeans right now.

Even if I halfed my closet, I still have quite a lot of clothes that I rarely wear. I default to a few of my go-to clothes. I know I have to downsize my closet some more and stick to the basics that I like wearing.

One of my realizations with this shopping ban is that I have a lot of clothes. I discovered that I don’t really need more. What I have is enough. Although I still kind of want to go buy that fancy top from Zara, I just stop in my tracks and think that I can’t afford that right now. I started to get a clearer picture of my personal style that’s not affected by the trends. In my mind, I finally knew what I wanted and needed. Not being able to buy clothes even if I wanted to made me realize that I don’t need to act on every urge.

I also started to appreciate the gifts I got from people, like my Havaianas slippers from my boyfriend and the graphic tee from my friend, Debb. These are probably among my most worn and used items and I love them. The little things that people give to you start to matter and you just swell with gratitude.

I have to work on it. I’m not quite there yet with having a good wardrobe that I could say every piece is something I get a lot of wear. My goal is to have all of my belongings fit my backpack and carry-on luggage. I think that would be one of my greatest achievements. For now, I’m still trying to downsize as much as I can and build a good wardrobe of basic clothing. I’ve seen some people do it drastically and succeed in the process. I know I don’t have the willpower to do that. So far, taking it slow has worked for me. I’m enjoying the process of making rules and readjusting from time to time. Can’t wait until everything fits in my bags and I can just pack and leave whenever.

Catching Up

Catching Up

2017 is coming to an end soon and with that, I’d like to wrap up the year that was. I know I haven’t been up in this part of the internet that much. Busy is such an over-used excuse, but it was what I’ve been the entire year. This is my version of catching up on things that I haven’t updated you on.

This year culminated a grueling quarter-life crisis that I had. It was tough, I tell you (and details to come in another post). 2016 wasn’t pretty and all the garbage spilled over the start of 2017. I felt worse than ever. My self-esteem took a huge plummet and I was in a more confused state. But we learn to rise from the ashes, don’t we?

Despite all the sadness at the start of the year, I’d like to say that 2017 was a good and definitely one for the books. I finally was able to quit my corporate job and become a freelancer full-time. It was a hasty decision since my health was failing at that time. I knew I had to do it. Although there are things that I could have done before jumping out to the open sea without any plan, I wouldn’t have done it any other way.

2017 was a year of realizations for me. It was in 2016 that my life started to shift 360. This year, everything came in full circle. I became pescatarian for health, animal welfare, and environmental reasons.  I grew disenchanted with the city life and the daily traffic. Then, I started to purge my belongings and realized I owned too much. I decided to give up my online store, Stills Analog, to focus on the bigger things in my life. I discovered that happiness cannot be achieved in a how-to guide prescribed by society. Happiness comes in various shapes and sizes. This year, I learned that some things had to happen no matter how painful or traumatizing they are. Lastly, I realized that it’s okay to be different. Just because you’re on a different path than the rest doesn’t mean you’re wrong.

This 2018, catching up will be a priority. As a freelancer, it can be easy to let time slip in front of you. It is way too easy to get side swept by the little things. You can easily forget to focus on the bigger things. I have to constantly remind myself that my hobbies and passion projects are important, too. Often, we need to carve in time for the people who matter and put in the time for catching up. Lastly, I need to realize that I’m important too. Burnout is real for freelancers as much as slacking off. Self-care should always be on top of the list no matter what.

I’m pretty excited about what’s to come this 2018. Mostly, it’s going to be about #adulting and getting things right. However, it’s also about riding the waves and cashing the horizons. You’ll definitely see me often in this part of the internet as I revamp and start coming up with ideas for my little internet home. What are you excited about for the new year?

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.