The short answer is: surprisingly well. I made a little video update to share my situation.
(Note: I recorded this last week. I'm rolling with a small graphics/communications contract now and waiting on an offer for a big urban farming proposal I submitted last week. Lots more in the cooker too.)
Even though I wasn't technically "employed" until this week, I've been working morning to night pretty much since I moved here. By that I mean designing proposals, meetings x 1 million, research, financial planning, registering as a business, web design, launching this vlog, and a whole lot of miscellaneous. Much of that ground work did not translate into anything that pays my rent - to be expected - but I'm now officially divvying up my hours to projects that I'm excited to be a part of.
As indicated in the video, I decided to pursue contract work because it fits my personal goals for the year. There's definitely a trade-off though and I think we should talk about it. When we read about the changing nature of employment in the news, the increase in contract and temporary or part-time work is almost uniformly described as a negative. The obvious reason for that is a lack of security or benefits to the employee. We can decide that's not the society we want. We can take the necessary steps to achieve a more stable labour environment. But either way, I think there's a lot of missing information on what contract work even looks like considering it has become such an important cog in our system. What does it mean to be an economy of freelancers on a human level?
Since I'm a super privileged person my experiences are just one small sample of the freelance lifestyle. I'll report how things are going nonetheless and I hope some of you will also be willing to share your experiences. That way, any readers considering contract work can know what they're in for.
Let's do this. Pros and cons. Weigh-in via comments with your thoughts/experiences.
- Pick your boss, not your job. I've essentially been finding gigs by meeting up with people I like and respect and then figuring out after the fact how I can add value to their work. It feels more collaborative and natural than responding to job postings.
- Define your schedule.
- Easy exits. If a particular contract is a bummer, you can phase it out and not be completely out of work.
- You can work on a project basis for organizations that couldn't afford to hire you full-time.
- Control. You have the power to say yes and no to projects without getting fired.
- You cultivate a very diverse and unique portfolio.
- Lots of personal admin to make sure you're divvying up your time appropriately to multiple tasks and clients.
- Constantly negotiating salaries and hourly wages can be tiresome.
- Again, lack of security and benefits.
- You depend on other people having the cash flow to hire your services.
- Hard to give yourself a break with multiple projects firing on all cylinders.
- Lots of time and resources spent on securing contracts.
- Hard to describe on a resume all the wonderful things you've done and learned.
- You may not get to stick around anywhere long enough to see a project through and ensure its success.
- Upward mobility depends on availability and interest of bigger clients.
- Office space can be an issue if you don't like working from home. Freelancers are the bread-and-butter/nemeses of every wifi café.
What would you add or subtract from that picture?
On another note, a bit of shop-talk for fellow freelancers. I just started using Harvest to organize hours and billing and OMG so much better than post-it notes and spreadsheets. Well worth the money in headaches saved.