The Discipline of a Freelancer

June 28, 2013 / by / 0 Comment

Freelance, when I first heard of this profession my impression of a freelancer was someone who has a flexible and relaxing work schedule, lots of free time and a diverse, but at the same time unstable, job description.

Since starting university at HKU, I have been fortunate enough to come upon different work opportunities and currently find myself a rookie freelancer. After freelancing for the past few months, I’ve realized that diverse and unstable it might be, but free and relaxing it definitely is not.

Unlike an office job, freelance tasks are found rather than given and since there isn’t a “boss” looming around overseeing your work, freelancing demands a high level of self discipline on the job. Managing different deadlines simultaneously is much like handling multiple deadlines at school, only if you miss the deadline the consequence is far more serious than just the deduction of marks. When freelancing for a newspaper, for instance, the article one writes actually needs to go to the printing press and get published. Missing a deadline would mean an empty column and a major hindrance for the company and one’s own work ethic and reputation.

Also unlike an office job, there is no separation between one’s work space and personal space. Working from home means that your personal life and work life coexist in the same environment and in the comfort of one’s home it can become very easy to get distracted. Just think about all those times you were tempted to log on to Facebook while writing an essay and then ended up spending a whole afternoon looking at your friends’ photos and cat memes. To be a freelancer you need to set a strict schedule for yourself and really complete the job before you have fun. Once again, much discipline is necessary in order to be an efficient freelancer.

Cartoon by N.C. Winters  Source:

Cartoon by N.C. Winters

I’ve mentioned that freelance jobs are found instead of given, this also means that the income of a freelancer is only as good as the amount of jobs found and completed. Very often, before a job is even finished you’d have to be on the hunt for the next or brainstorming ideas for the next article in line. This means that virtually, even when you’re not working you’re still on constant outlook for work related things, which in effect means you’re still sort of working.

Cartoon by Kipper Williams Source:

Cartoon by Kipper Williams

Working from home initially seemed very cool to me. Though after actually experiencing it, working from home can mean no traveling, no dressing up for the office (need tips on dressing for the office? read hKUDOS blogger Hillary Kong‘s post on office wear!) , no meals outside and no interaction with coworkers. Though I quite enjoy working from home, it honestly can get a bit lonely and crazy in times of tight deadlines when you literally get up everyday, work in your pajamas, eat reheated dinner for lunch while you work,  finish work, go to bed the those same pajamas you woke up in and repeat the whole process again the next day. Working from home can be great and definitely saves a lot of expenses, but it can also mean a hermit working style.

Cartoon from the New Yorker by Roz Chast Source:

Cartoon from the New Yorker by Roz Chast

After my first few months as a rookie freelancer, I’ve learnt that a freelancer is anything but free, and that a free one is probably not a very good one. It also made me realize, much more concretely than school had done, that discipline is key to efficiency and success. Also, just as in school, and pretty much in life, procrastination can be the death of you.

As I’m writing this blog post a week later than my scheduled entry, there’s clearly still a long way for me to go and improve as a freelancer. I now have a newfound respect for those who can claim freelancing as their profession. Who knows? Maybe starting now, with enough  experience and practice, I’d actually consider adopting this as a future career path as well.

What is your impression of a freelancer? Have you tried/is freelancing? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!



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