Client’s Clock: “I’ll get back to you on that project.”
Freelancer’s Clock: “I needed that information yesterday.”
It doesn’t take long in the life of a newly-born (or even old hat) freelancer to come to a very clear understanding that the client’s world and your world run on different clocks.
Perhaps, you came from a long career as an employee. Your total responsibility was to show-up at work, do the tasks set before you, have lunch, mingle with your co-workers and get paid.
Now, you’re a freelancer. More specifically, you’re in the freelance business. You’re responsible for getting the work, doing the work, billing for the work and collecting payment for it – all according to the client’s clock. You, on the other hand, must pay your bills, experience your life and create opportunities for new projects according to your clock, and you know, your credit card payment deadlines and rent cycle.
According to the latest statistics from Freelancers Union, there are roughly 55 million people doing freelance work in the US – 34% of the national workforce. Globally, the number is hard to pin down – but as most of us know from seeing the explosion of “gig workers” on the Internet, the best guess is the sector is staggeringly huge worldwide and growing at a very rapid rate.
But, I’m not here to discuss the metrics of freelancing. Instead, I want to explore the psychological challenges of “the client’s clock vs. the freelancer’s clock.” And, how, time on the side of client is often maddeningly independent from the timescape we experience as full-time freelancers.
Client’s Clock: “I’m working on a couple of things that might be interesting.”
Freelancer’s Clock: “I’m working on nothing at the moment. How about throwing a few of those interesting projects at me?”
I believe that half the battle of staying in business is not just pitching new work, but maintaining some sort of achievable equilibrium between these two timepieces.
Some suggest visualization for bringing the two clocks more in line. Imagine you’re getting a new project, create the scenario, build the mental blueprint and the universe will deliver. This might make you feel better, but trust me, even visualization observes its own metaphysical timetable.
Or, is meditation the answer? Allow yourself to “just be” and clear the deck for new input which can include a space for new freelance assignments. At worst, the 10 minutes you spend will reconfirm you can successfully inhale and exhale on a regular basis.
Begging and pleading to the heavens never resets the clocks. Aside from the spiritually demanding experience, it tends to tear a hole in the psychic time-space continuum.
At its core, freelancing is about your ability to survive living day-to-day with the knowledge that you exist in a parallel universe from your clients.
Client’s Clock: “Sure, I can do lunch on Thursday.”
Freelancer’s Clock: "Let me push back a deadline and pray that this lunch equals a new project.”
Think of the relationship like Grand Central Station. You both enter. You each have an intention to travel to a destination. You each purchase a ticket. But your endpoints may not converge. Even though your trains leave from similar tracks, one of you may decide to take an earlier or later train because your immediate plans are decidedly different.
The key to successful freelancing is being able to live your life with the acceptance that you and your clients go through daily life run by different clocks. Theirs may be right on time for them, but completely off-schedule for you. The same often applies to deadlines.
Einstein believed “time is an illusion.” Comedians believe “timing is everything.”
Maybe the secret for us freelancers is to stay focused and not watch the clock.
As CDMKTG's chief Brand Copywriter/Content Strategist, Charles provides a global marketing perspective derived from decades of guiding the success of Fortune 500, 200 and 100 clients.
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