by Nqobile Mkhatshwa
Let’s face it, we are living in tough economic times in South Africa and at the rate things are going, it does not seem as though much is going to get better, at least not any time soon. It’s an uncomfortable season and for many, has been for a while. The anticipation of retrenchment and uncertainty over the future in the place of work is, on its own, stressful. ‘Side-hustles’ are becoming the norm and for numerous other reasons, people are leaving 9 to 5 jobs at their own will and are getting into the freelancing space or the gig economy , creating each day as they rise to it.
Whether due to the state of the economy or retrenchments at places of work, more and more people are considering freelancing to fill their days, and bank accounts and are welcoming the prospect of having to find creative and practical ways of affording their livelihoods. Being a freelancer is exclaimed as one of the best jobs in the world because one gets to exist in a freeing space, and can work from anywhere in the world and get work from anywhere in the world. It’s a great creative and free space in which they can determine their own working hours, place of work and whom to work with. It’s a fantastic space, only made better by doing work that one actually loves. But, as rosy as it all sounds, surviving as a freelancer requires good old hard work!
“The life of the professional writer – like that of any freelance, whether she be a plumber or a podiatrist – is predicated on willpower. Without it there simply wouldn’t be any remuneration, period.” – Will Self
I came across the above quote which reminded me that to be a freelancer, you have to be strong-willed to complete tasks day after day. You have to get ‘it’ done, sometimes without the luxury of awaiting inspiration to strike because you still have deadlines and bills to pay. This is sometimes terrifying because the reality is, the bills won’t pay themselves, which means that as a freelancer, you have to put yourself out there, find work and do it properly, especially in order to attract more work and therefore build a solid clientele. There is no guaranteed pay-cheque at the end of the month.
I reached out to a few friends of mine who work as freelancers and spoke through how freelancing serves them to live the lives that they want to live and why it works for them. Keenan(Social Media Specialist and Writer), Nikho(Video Editor) and Lebo(Content Producer and Writer).
Lebo: “I love owning my time and not having to deal with annoying questions from a typical boss such as ‘is there a reason why such and such is not done?’ Right now I get to decide what needs to be done and when. I have my own time-lines, I commit only to deadlines that I know I can meet. One of the best things about being a freelancer is also choosing which clients to work with, you eventually get to that place where you’re not just accepting any and every work because you’re still starting out but when you’re established, you get to choose the characters and personalities you’re willing to tolerate and quickly end working relationships with bad energies. Imagine living in a world where you get to interview your boss, clearly stating your expectations as an employee? That’s the bliss of freelancing. It’s bizarre to think that the best work can be achieved between 9 to 5; for instance, I love early mornings, I’m most creative then, late nights too. I fill the day as I see fit. Also importantly for me is the flexibility of being able to make money and still enjoy being with my family at the same time. I have a son and it’s important for my family to have me more present than absent. In cases where a specific gig needs me to be on location or at the office, I commit specific days and hours and that’s it!”
Nikho: “I love freelancing because I dictate my own schedule especially now that I have been at it for a while and have retainers with numerous clients. I love being constantly challenged by the different jobs I get and the people I meet. It’s all refreshing. I’ve had to learn to budget and handle money differently because I no longer depend on a salary that is sure to come with the end of each month. I plan ahead with whatever is left after paying bills and have enough savings to carry me through a couple of months should work be scarce because there are those days. As a freelancer you also get the chance to invest in yourself which is probably one of the best things you can do because you can never go wrong. For me personally, I need to have good equipment to get my work done so I have been investing a lot on that. But hey man, a lot tests your temperament – there’s a lot of uncertainty that comes with not having an assured pay-check; some payments come later than expected so it’s always a question of how far you push yourself, how willing you are to keep fighting and what measures you’re willing to take to ensure that you get to where you want to be. You definitely become more resilient and tougher. But all in all, it’s worth it!”
Keenan: “Look, in the words of Arnold J. Toynbee, “The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.” That is what this freelancing thing is all about, for me. I’m constantly blurring the line; some exercise in the morning, a good breakfast, checkout the news, a short nap after and then I’m up again in no more than an hour for some solid work. My job is my hobby so I definitely don’t want to be frustrated by it. I do it and I do it well. I have afternoons and evenings where I sit at home working and watching Netflix and that’s okay. A lot of the time I find that people glorify being stressed and enduring sleepless nights, being extremely busy and just downright hectic! No, that’s not me. I don’t deserve stress, I don’t want it. I want to work and play and have a balanced life. I of course have times of back to back deadlines and in all those times, I allocate my hours accordingly. Discipline is very important in the life of a freelancer, with no one to report to but yourself, you have to get it right. But I must say, I love taking naps as and when needed. Have you even fought sleep in the office with your boss not too far from you? I don’t wish that on even my worst enemy!”
And there you have it, from the freelancers themselves! There are of course countless more perks of being a freelancer and motivating reasons to become one. Other people that I have come across have shared on their disinterest in keeping on with unsatisfying careers and committing to working in one space or location. Making your own decisions, being in control of the turn your career will take, owning the work you produce and taking pride in what you’re able to contribute are just some of the reasons that some have for becoming freelancers.
The freedom of changing spaces is what freelancers enjoy, sometimes working alone, not engaging a single soul because they just choose to. ‘The office’ often offers sometimes annoying people that you don’t necessarily want to see nor converse with daily so being able to get on your chosen work in utter peace is the joy of a freelancer. Avoiding and not sitting in traffic, independence, being paid for something you do for fun, dressing however you like… There are plenty more reasons to love freelancing.
How did you get into freelancing and what do you love about it?