Coming Full Circle
I went freelance on April 21st 2008. Soon after, one of the worst recessions in decades hit on a truly global scale. Some might say I didn’t have good luck starting a business then, but at the time the decision felt right, the risk felt rewarding and the prospect of freedom to do and say as I pleased greatly appealed to me.
When I started, I was living with my parents and financial risk was no problem. Their help gave me a foot up onto the freelance ladder, though I decided to rent a business premises to conduct my first year of businesses from. A long standing video professional friend offered me was a rather lovely barn conversion, and I was sold!
In my first year, despite the economic crisis, I turned over £25,000 and afforded all my necessary equipment to do my motion graphics design and editing from. Not a bad figure for the first year of freelancing, but the worst was still to come.
The cushy barn loft! My first business premises near Alton in Hampshire.
Before I become freelance, I worked in a local video production company. I had a full-time job, financial security and a pension, not to mention a care-free attitude of not having to worry about the next source of work, because the boss and the producer went out to find and develop those leads. I had access to the best audio visual equipment, travelled around the world photographing and creating video adverts for travel companies.
In the true sense, I should have been made for life, happy and content with the plan that had been laid down for me. I wasn’t. I was a restless person, stressed, un-happy, not fulfilled to my full potential and it was dragging me down. Why was this? I had money in the bank, my annual holiday to look forward to, and a team around me whom I enjoyed working with.
Something was calling me from a far distant part of my mind, calling for a change to nurture some long-lost passion, some long lost interest that had been ignited at a younger age. It was time to pursue the soul search!
I worked for two seasons by the beach before I even touched a professional edit suit.
I surfed, body-boarded and flew (paraglided) every spare moment when I wasn’t working or having a BBQ on the beach with friends. The beach was my home and was 10 minutes walk from the restaurant where I worked and lived.
I never earned much, but I was deeply happy and content, and loved life’s little daily adventures, day by day explorations and unexpected anomalies.
Life was truly mine to live. Nothing phased me, and I had no concerns or anxiety. I felt free.
There are around 1.4 million freelancers in the UK. From a population of 63 million, that is just over 2% who work as freelancers, or contractors as it is also refereed to. Common freelancers functions include IT consultants, engineers, oil & gas contractors, project managers, business and management consultants, interim managers, journalists, medical professionals, copywriters, designers and media/marketing professionals; basically, anyone who is working independently in a knowledge–based role.
What this boils down to is we that are in charge of every fine point of our finances – We have to account for our basic living wage, our sick pay, equipment costs to do our job, business premises and most importantly a plan for the future – our pension. If a full-time salaried employee asked me how much I charge a day for my freelance service, they may bulk at the cost, “How are you earning so much money!?”. Well, let me stop you there. A professional video camera costs in the region of £30,000. I will go no further.
You could say that being freelance is a very pioneering thing to do, a very developmental stage by it’s very definition; we can grow fast, we are as flexible as the speed of lighting; and fast, mobile; responsive and friendly. In our work habit we cannot afford to be rude, unfriendly or uncaring. We’d never get get away with it. No one would employ us. Mortgage advisors look at us as ‘risky individuals’, whom must be treated with care, and quite rightly so. Where is our next job coming from? How long does the current contract last? What if they overlap? Will I have to ignore one client and give preference over the other client? Will that client go elsewhere and who will honour their freelancers and value their work, and invest in that individuals skills? We have a tough job climate to content with, let alone finding sustainable work which pays a living day after day.
Imagine going to be a job interview every month, and on top of that having the financial stress it can put on you and family. Will the bills be paid this month, and what happens if next month is quiet? If next month is quiet, then you have to forecast for that.
With those kind of considerations, things soon become serious, however let’s take a look at the bigger picture.
So what about breaking ‘free’, is it a simple lifestyle choice?
Sometimes it’s necessary in life to take a leap of faith, for standing up in something that you believe and something you know will succeed. Belief in ones self is essential and without it, any endeavour is doomed to fail. You are right on the front-line as a freelancer.
In April 2008, I returned back to the life before the times of sanctuary and comfort of a full time job, and plumped for the risky and lonely road of freelancing. I now live in East Devon, and include freelancing as a professional cameraman into the type of workstyle/lifestyle balance that made me so happy over 8 years ago. Contentment, happiness, fulfilment and life are once mine again, returning to my veins like a long lost friend.
Like the change of the wind, I’m able to design my own day, and have learnt the art of self-restraint and discipline to absolute perfection. I now operate like a smooth, well lubricated machine.
But it’s taken nearly six years, and the sense of loneliness and reflection can be overwhelming. However, great lessons are learnt in life in moments of reflection, and through those moments of reflection I’ve grown a sense of peace and productivity, safely tucked away from total distraction of racy 21st century life.
So what next?
Pursuit of a dream is a very fine thought, but carrying it out requires strength and determination. Over the last three years I’ve been developing ideas around Natural History and Documentary TV production – A lifelong dream of mine which stemmed from watching Attenborough documentaries when I was very young, perhaps 5 or 6. So it’s all gone full circle; I’ve been processed through the Education System, the Random Job Chapter, the Career Pursuit and have arrived exactly where I started. How humbling is that?
But what does it mean for the wider world? If you are thinking of going freelance within you chosen profession, then most certainly it is one of the biggest choices in your life. But why not? I believe as the coming years develop in business, we will see Social Media grow further, accessibility to work increase, meaning more people can work on their own schedule, and the traditional work lifestyle morph into individuals absorbing more responsibility. Productivity increases, hours at the desk decrease. Our current method of work lifestyle simply isn’t sustainable, just take a look at the level of mental health issues such as stress and anxiety within the Western world. We are on a one way collision course!
Now I’m not saying this will work for all sectors and industries, but what I am saying is, why not take a leap of faith? Life is out there. Get out there and grab it!