The Unfree Freelancer

Jan 16, 2014

What kind of freelancer are you? Network-rich or house-bound? Business suit or PJ’s? Enjoying your freedom or longing for the 9-5?

This week, we unveiled your new roadmap to freelance nirvana: The Freelancers Pyramid of Self-Actualization, a semi-serious name for your super-serious path from pawn to Project Killer, Client Czar, and Director of Gig Domination, to someone who gives back and builds what’s good_._

Find where you are on the Pyramid and look up to see where you’re headed as each level of the Pyramid is unveiled in the coming week. You’ll get tips on how to rise up the ranks and become your best freelance self through wit, guts, and heart. Tell us where you fit and share your freelance goals in the comments below.

Level 5: Unfree Freelancer

You are a freelancer, but not a happy one. Your inability to find consistent work leads to high stress and unfulfilling work.

Risky business: The bottom line is you probably never have enough money. And because you’re focused on sustaining yourself, you can’t really plan for the future, find new clients, or save. You have no health insurance. It’s a high-risk situation; a few weeks of no work or an emergency expense can get you into serious trouble.

Underchallenged and underpaid: The work you have is probably beneath your skill level and has very little creative requirement. You let your clients dictate your work. You don’t protect yourself with a contract. You don’t understand how to find new clients or look for the wrong kind of clients.

Dropping off the map: You’re either too busy to have a life or feel embarrassed to meet more “successful” friends. You bring your stress home and may alienate your loved ones.

“Freelancing = Failure”: You don’t value yourself as an independent worker, and can’t wait to get back to the 9-5 so that other people see you as successful. Others don’t respect you because you’re too focused on yourself or are underperforming.

How do you move beyond the Un-Free Freelancer? Become a Hustling Freelancer by:

  • Researching how other freelancers find clients. Start by reading this post on how to start getting clients.
  • Learning how to write a good pitch.
  • If you live in NYC or Portland, check out Freelancers Union’s Freelance 360 events, like Be Their Go-To.
  • Applying to gigs that match or stretch your skills and avoiding menial jobs and scams.
  • Reading the stories of un-free freelancers who have made it work despite setbacks.
  • Finding one or two steady clients.
  • Adding some personal touches to your work, or being unafraid to tell current clients of your other/higher skills.
  • When you have a free moment, try spending it with family/loved ones.