A freelance career in the creative arts
A freelance career in the creative arts

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4 Pros and cons of working for myself

The pros and cons of freelancing are a regular topic of discussion.

Watch this light-hearted video by The Cat and the Silver Fish to hear about some of the more commonly aired issues.

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Video 5
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Now complete Activity 4.

Activity 4 My hopes and concerns

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

Think about the themes that were highlighted in Video 5 – financial, practical, personal etc. and make a note of the ones that resonate most with you, either as a hope or concern.

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Discussion

Concerns: For many freelancers, their main concerns are financial, but isolation can also be a big issue when you work for yourself.

Advantages: Flexibility within your working day and the opportunity to have greater variety in your work are attractive features of a freelance career.

What did you choose? Do your hopes outweigh your fears, or was it the other way around? Throughout this course you will find advice and support that will help you address any concerns.

Isolation

One of the most commonly articulated disadvantages experienced by freelancers is isolation.

Working on your own, especially if you are home-based, can be isolating – so you need to find ways to combat that. Building and maintaining good support networks is important. These might be online, e.g. Facebook groups for freelancers, or in person, e.g. meeting like-minded individuals for a coffee once a week in your town centre.

As the number of freelance workers continues to grow, coffee shops and other establishments are starting to offer co-working spaces where you can go to get out of the house and work alongside other people. Many of them have dedicated work stations where you can plug in your laptop, use a networked printer and even book a meeting room to see clients. Websites such as coworker.com [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] can connect you with physical spaces in over 163 different countries around the world!

Another way to combat isolation is to factor breaks into your working day and get out of the house. A brisk walk around the local park can make a surprising difference to your productivity and resilience as well as keeping you healthy.

Finding a mentor is also a great strategy. Identifying someone who has set up and run a creative business can be hugely beneficial – especially when you are facing those low points and need reminding about why you are doing this. They will undoubtedly have felt the same at some point and can probably reassure and advise you. You’ll explore this option in more detail in Week 3.

Work–life balance

As you saw in Video 5, work–life balance is often presented as a positive element of freelancing, and it can be. But for many freelancers, saying yes to everything is necessary, at least at first, in order to make enough income and build up regular clients and repeat business – and that can lead to overwork and a very poor balance.

Whitener (2017) explains that it is better not to think of it as a 50:50 balance, rather ‘that balance is achieved when one feels fulfilled both at work and in their lifestyle’. She goes on to explain that ‘fulfilment becomes the core of feeling balanced.’

Xero (no date) suggests that business owners take a scientific approach to their work–life balance.

  • Don't force creativity. The creative parts of the human brain often kick into action when our attention is elsewhere – especially when we’re relaxed or tired. That’s why good ideas often ‘pop into our minds’ overnight. The best way to solve a problem creatively is to concentrate on it for a while, then forget about it and relax.
  • Early riser or night owl? Some people work better in the morning, others in the evening. There’s little you can do to change this – but you can adapt to it. Ask yourself which type of person you are and save the most challenging work for the time of day when you’re at your mental peak.
  • Schedule your day sensibly. The afternoon lull, usually between 2pm and 4pm, is a bad time to do intensive intellectual work, regardless of whether you’re an early riser or a night owl. If taking a siesta or ‘power nap’ isn’t feasible, use this period to get simple admin work completed instead.
  • Stress is good – in moderation. There’s evidence that small amounts of stress from time to time may help our bodies stay in peak condition. However, long-term stress is bad for us, weakening our immune systems and prematurely ageing our bodies.

Now that you have a more informed idea of what a freelance career might involve for you, you can start to look to the future and consider where you might want to take it.

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