Written by Siân Bevan


Freelancing in the dark

Siân Bevan recently went freelance, and it’s been one hell of a learning curve. In order to save you from insanity, biscuit overdose and an unsustainable pen habit, she’s sharing the 10 things that happen when you go off-piste.

Escape key on a keyboardRecently I dived into the heady world of freelancing. I decided that a regular salary, job security and being on a kitchen cleaning rota was too much like being a grown-up and thought it might be fun to go it alone. I’m still at the stage where I use ‘freelancer’ as a generic, meaningless job title with an undercurrent of ‘I’ll do most things for money that don’t involve bodily fluids.’ A lot of the time the money part is an added bonus. I’m standing firm on the fluids.

As time ticks on and I get used to this new, terrifying independence, I’ve chatted to other freelancers who are carving their own little niches in the world. I mentioned the stages I seemed to be going through, and they all nodded sagely, which makes me think I have definitely, definitely cracked some kind of universal set of truths.

And so, presented to you courtesy of my good pal Procrastination, here are 10 things which happen when you go freelance.

1) You will have an exhilarating few days of rearranging your desk

The first Monday after I left my job I had THE BEST day. I chose which side of my laptop I wanted to put my pencil case. I carefully decided how my ‘to do’ list system was going to work. I rearranged some books on my bookshelf which I thought I might need to dip into in a hurry (I will not) and got myself some ‘work biscuits’ in case I needed them (they were gone in six minutes). It was great. Arranging things is GREAT.

2) Stationery is your new crack

When you feel out of control of your life, nothing matters more than using your favourite pen to write a ‘to do’ list in a notebook that has just the right kind of binding. Going stationery shopping when you’re feeling sad is both dangerous and exhilarating. Like hugging a gorilla or Christian Bale.

3) You’re not really sure what you do

It seems most freelancers go through a stage where they can’t remember what they do. It’s super-tempting to yell “YES DEFFO!” to everything you’re offered that will pay you money, even if it’s nothing to do with Your Big Plan. Soon you start to drift away from Your Big Plan and it begins to sound like a ridiculous idea that was pitched one time on Dragon’s Den by a dude with creepy fingernails.

4) You’re not really sure you can do it

You don’t realise how much working in an office offers some semblance of reassurance until you go solo. Even if you’re working in a terrible office where your boss is mean and your colleagues are obnoxious, the mere fact that you’re still working there suggests that on some level you’re not totally fucking up. Once you’re looking after yourself, you start to suspect that you can’t speak English and don’t know how to pick up the phone, and are fairly sure that you’re dressing weird.

The League of Gentlemen’s Pauline Campbell-Jones knows that pens are friends. She’s obviously gone freelance.

The League of Gentlemen’s Pauline Campbell-Jones knows that pens are friends. She’s obviously gone freelance.

5) The entire world is a field full of birds and you are a dog pawing at the window

Everything that is not the task you are meant to be doing is interesting: Facebook, Buzzfeed surveys, finding out if Friends Reunited is still a thing… You have to be your own bitchy boss and sometimes you just want to be one of those chilled drunk bosses who doesn’t mind you taking a four-hour lunch break.

6) You lose all concept of work/life balance

The weird flipside to being distracted by every stationery website ever, is that you feel constantly guilty. It gets to 7pm and you know you haven’t done enough and what if someone asks and no, you can’t go out for a friend’s birthday because you HAVE ACHIEVED NOTHING and do not deserve fun. Alternatively, you might go into the hysterical, “I can meet you for tea at 3pm because I’m freelance and have a flexible schedule” state and then it’s 10pm and you’re drunk and hugging your favourite pen.

7) You feel miserable

You’re so alone and yet, impressively, you’re also letting people down. You were so arrogant thinking you could do this. You need structure. Why is that person doing better than you? Imagine if you had money. I want more pens.

8) You feel amazing

You’ll bump into an old friend and they’ll ask what you do now. You’ll mutter something about being freelance and they ask another question. Suddenly, you’re telling them about this thing you’re working on which you thought of all by yourself and your life seems pretty damn cool. Just don’t think about money, don’t think about money.

9) You step outside normality and kinda don’t mind

Most freelancers operate on a timetable which is outside normal office hours. As a friend pointed out when I first announced my plans, that means getting doctors’ appointments and going to the shops when it’s quiet. It also means that you’re outside lots of social norms, floating around in this weird bubble of random employment, not doing anything that your teachers told you was a proper job. And then you meet other people in other weird bubbles, your bubbles all merge and you all hang out and swap horror stories about tax returns until your bubble metaphor breaks down.

10) Everything works out in the end. Right?

I keep being told that it does all work out in the end. There are hundreds of roads, with millions of paths between them. Even if you stumble around for ages, you’ll inevitably end up on some kind of route to somewhere, even if the destination is weird. Don’t forget to look up and enjoy the view on the way. And pens. Don’t forget your pens.


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Written by Siân Bevan

Siân is a writer, performer, creator of joyful things and sometimes she tries to explain things to young people. She’s a mainly vegan feminist who loves elephants, is scared of the dark and likes stories most of all.