The Pros and Cons of Being Freelance

Now this is a blog post that I have been wanting to write for a really, really long time. I almost feel as if it’s such a huge topic in my life and to dissect it is such a monumental task that I have shy’d away from writing this, knowing that it’s going to take a couple days to write. 

This image sums up a lot, I’m totally smiling on the outside dying on the inside. I remember the day that my friend Krystal Kenny (another American photographer in Paris!) took this photo. I had spent the entire day, I mean entire day, on the computer editing photos and tackling administrative work. The kind of thing I hate. I had to rush to shower and didn’t even have time to fuss over my hair (literally I’m so picky about my hair) that I just threw a baseball cap on quickly and ran out the door. 

First and foremost, I have to preface this entire blog post by saying HOW GRATEFUL I am. Sincerely grateful that I am to be doing what I’m doing. I live in France, I take photos for a living, I live a beautiful life, I have my health, I laugh on the regular, I am happy. So let’s just get this on of the way, this is not a ranting or negative blog post. I’ve done those in the past, lol, this is not that. 

Why am I writing this? Well a couple reasons, for my own emotional sanity, kind of like a therapy session to keep things into perspective, but also because I have this conversation ALL THE TIME. I am often having this conversation with clients. They are often people traveling from the States and they have high paced work environments. When I meet them they often ask me a lot of questions about what it’s like to live on the French Riviera and in Paris and how I mange to make it all possible. I mean, an American artist in France? It screams “dream life”. Most of my clients are super successful people and I can see a little glimmer in their eyes. A lot of them share with me that they too, dream of living abroad. They too want to quit their traditional jobs and become yogis, or painters, or creative entrepreneurs. The way they share their dreams is touching and beautiful but their is also a part of me, in the back of my head saying “You have NOOOOOO idea” 

And a second voice saying “the grass is ALWAYS greener” 

The second set of people I am always having this conversation with is fellow photographers and freelancers. When we get together and we start complaining things often escalade quickly and before you know it you would think we were underprivileged children living off the grind on some remote island with no food (dramatic I know).

Let’s cover some of the amazing positive points of living a freelance lifestyle. 

1. No boss. Yes, you have no “Bob” “Shirley” or “Debrah” breathing over your shoulder. You don’t have to deal with a “boss” and you don’t have to deal with their complex personalities. If you’re working at an office and your boss Tammy is going through a divorce, you can bet Tammy is going to have some intense energy. The closest thing I come to having a boss is my clients. Unfortunately, it’s true that I don’t always like my clients. There are a couple (a very few) that I down right have not been able to stand. They are generally the ones that are passive aggressive and you only see their true personalities through text or emails. The great news? Those a*s-hole clients come and go. The even better news? The clients that I really really like? Well, the energy is generally mutual and I have created a base of loyal clients that come back time and time again. Those clients that I love also generally attract new clients that are similar to them. I never try to hang onto clients that I don’t jive with. I think of it as happiness investment. Keep the ones that you genuinely love and they will gain compound interest in time. 

2. Flexibility. This is another one that people talk a lot about. It’s true and amazing. You go on vacation when you decide you go on vacation and you work when you want to work. Not a morning person? Schedule your clients for the late afternoon. I also love the flexibility of working wherever I want. I’m a huge lover of cafés and I get so productive when I sit down at a cafe.  

One of my favorite things about being freelance is my ability to work in cute cafes instead of having to go into a stuffy office place.

3. You’re living your passion. It’s like that saying, work for your dreams or you’ll end up working for someone elses. I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to do a job that I am genuinely passionate about. Photography is also so good to me, because if I decide tomorrow that I only want to photograph professional sports (I don’t think that will happen) I have the tools and the abilities to pivot my photography in that direction. I have always felt very passionate about getting to know people and seeing inside their heads. I think that’s why I have a degree in psychology. Photographing people gives me the opportunity to jump into another persons’ world. 

4. The sky is the limit. This for me is a really big advantage to being a freelancer. I am a DAYDREAMER. A big time daydreamer. If you put me in a fishbowl and tell me that every month I’m going to earn X amount and after two years my pay is increased X + X … I’m going to get really bored. I dream that tomorrow I’m going to be swept away on a photo assignment that going to take me around the world in a private jet. And guess what? That is absolutely POSSIBLE because this job leaves all options open. 

5. Choose your clients. Yes, I have been doing this since day 1 even when my bank account didn’t recommend this. I get emails from certified psychopaths. Trust me, after 5 years of doing this you can tell immediately when someone is one bumpy car ride away from cutting the last brain nerve connecting their mouth from their brain. This client usually manifest themselves in incredibly long emails that go on for days and hyper complicate a process that you have made really easy for a reason. At least twice a year I have to ask a client if they really think I’m the photographer they are looking for. My philosophy towards my job is this: if I wanted to turn my job into something that was unpleasant I might as well quit and become a banker. That way, I would have a job I hate but at least I would be making money. lol

Ok, now you are ready to quit your job and take the plunge! Hold off just a second I have finished yet, you still have to read through the cons.  

1. Your job quickly consumes your entire life. YAY! Goodbye nine to five and welcome to the world of  nine to midnight. I don’t know a single person that works for themselves that hasn’t experienced this. The truth is, when you are completely responsible for your own well-being and your own business, everything falls on your shoulders and trust me… you are not doing enough, you are never doing enough; there is always more to do, WAY MORE. Welcome to a career where you constantly feel behind! How do all those other photographers managed to record videos, blog, photograph their dream vacations, meditate, engage with their followers? 

2. Quickly you become your own boss, your own worst enemy and your flexible schedule becomes a poison. Guess who you are constantly fighting with? The voices in your own head. “Go have drinks with friends” vs “You know you have that 7am photoshoot tomorrow morning”. Everything that is not done well? Who do you blame? You only have yourself to blame. If you’re smart you will take responsibility for your mistakes or continue suffering the same fatal business errors. There have been times when I have neglected my business and saw the results of my neglect 6 months later. You have to swallow your pride and admit that you’re not perfect in order to pick yourself up and start working harder. Personally, I hate working in the morning. I’m constantly fighting a battle in the morning. Sleeping in is my kryptonite. Guilt is a horrible poison that doesn’t help you at all. Everytime I sleep in I feel guilty which feeds a negative cycle. Being an entrepreneur requires a lot of self awareness. Your negative thought patterns can kill profits.

3. Not really living in the moment. This is something that I think most non-freelance people will be most surprised by. As a photographer, I am capturing beautiful moments. But am I really living in the moment? Those beautiful coffee shots? Hurry, get to the cafe before your next shoot, sit in a spot with good light, spend time arranging the coffee, quickly shoot the shots, put the card in your computer, edit them, export them, upload them to your phone, hashtag hastag hastag… oh shit… my coffee is ice cold.  Every photographer that I talk to says the same thing. 10 percent of our work is taking pretty photos, 90 percent is editing, marketing, traveling, admistrative work, etc. When  you’re busy as a freelancer you are REALLY busy, and it’s really hard to say no to ANYTHING, so trust me, you are running around like a maniac ticking things off your checklist. It takes discipline to stop and breath and soak in the moment. 

4. Watch your passion become your daily chore. It’s really easy for the thing you are most passionate about to become a chore. Because sometimes you just want to sit in the sunlight and take it all in, but you have this voice in your head saying “this would be a great photo for your blog you should have brought your camera”. Choose your freelance career wisely. A friend and I were just talking about this and she gave me a bit of wisdom she recently heard on a podcast: whatever you do when you are procrastinating should be your career, that way you can make money procrastinating. 

The take away: Freelance lifestyle is horribly amazing. 

If you’re thinking about taking the plunge, becoming your own boss and living a freelance lifestyle I say go for it! But I also say go into with realistic expectations. Being freelance is kind of like finding the love of your life. You assume when you meet your life partner that he/she will complete you and you will live happily ever after. In reality he pees on the toilette bowl seat sometimes and snores. Doesn’t take away from the fact that you love him, but yeah… perfection does not exist. 

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