Today is an important occasion for me: it’s 10 years since I went self-employed. I’m dead chuffed that somehow I’ve blundered through all these years, slightly anxious about the year ahead (two clients falling off, one affecting some readers of this as they’ll know, the other alas my most lucrative in terms of pay-per-work; though in happier news at least two new clients secured and a possible Big New Project which would make everything much securer), and determined to carry on for as long as I possibly can, ie until I die. I’ve seen numerous people come and go in the self-employed arena, and very few seem to have the luck/disposition to stay a long-term course. I hope I do, but obviously we’ll see.
I think the two things that have made all this work for me are:
1. Diversifying. My disposition is to be an incurable generalist, and I’ve gradually persuaded people to let me do a variety of different stuff – I started as a writer, became an editor, then a designer, and now even occasionally a coder, and bluff my way through all four, thanks to some lucky opportunities, reliable contacts and I suppose some sort of facility for picking things up.
2. Loyalty. Although inevitably clients come and go, there are three or four people/organisations I’ve worked with from only about six months after I went freelance, and these people have been good to me – and hopefully I’ve been good to them too, sometimes putting business their way too, and trying to be dependable. This pays the bills, and allows time for doing other stuff as it comes up, and all the other daft stuff I get up to. I’m hugely grateful to these people, and the occasional boredom is a very fair price for years of work. Boredom, I think, is a factor in any job, and finding the right kind of tolerable boredom (at least if you have an attention span as piscine as mine) is a crucial strategy.
This year, as I say, I’m slightly anxious, but recently I’ve started looking around for extra work in a way I’ve not really done since I started – so it’s an exciting time for reboot, and a challenge to work out how to find new work (I have one particular new angle to help with that – more another time maybe). Luckily it’s driven by foresight rather than sheer necessity – so far.
Sometimes I think being a specialist is better than a generalist. So many people (writers, I’m mainly thinking of) identify an area of interest and nurture an expertise for which people then come knocking. Somehow that just isn’t me, so I’ll have to keep up this fly-by-night approach somehow instead. Wish me luck!