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.

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.

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.