There’s a million articles around about the benefits/pitfalls of freelance life, and even more about the nitty-gritty of going it alone – how to invoice, why it’s important to sometimes get dressed, the importance of “networking” and all that guff. The reality, of course, is that what works for one independent creative would be anathema to another. Especially in the creative industries, people each have their little nuances and peccadilloes, so we wanted to chat to creatives to find out what really makes life easier for them; from where they like to work, to Skyping clients in your pants to making friends with Turkish shopkeepers. We’ve chatted with five freelancers from Working Not Working, an invite-only global network of top creative talent.
What’s refreshing from everyone we chat to is an openness about not really being too sure what they’re doing, but doing it anyway – a nice antidote to the terrifying feeling that everyone else is better or more confident than you. “Half the time we don’t really know what we’re doing but we’re just powering through…!,” admits animation studio Moth Collective. “Prepare yourself to become friends with the voice inside your head. Don’t piss him/her off or they will become your worst enemy!” graphic designer Thom Lambert adds.
The reality of being your own boss though is the fact that you’re only responsible for yourself; both a liberating and terrify prospect. Illustrator Annu Kilpeläinen gets around this by waking up early, to remain in synch with the traditional working world. “And since just recently I was working from home I made great friends with the Turkish guys at the shop next door as they were the guaranteed fun coffee break friends,” she tells us.
“Prepare yourself to become friends with the voice inside your head. Don’t piss him/her off or they will become your worst enemy!”
“If you can keep it under control and not use it to procrastinate (we’ve all been there), then social media is a great tool. Make sure you phone people you love!,” adds Thom. “You’re your own boss so there’s no reason you can’t make/take that call. It’s also good to have music playing, or a TV on in the background.” Moth Collective’s advice? “You call your other lonely animation friends and have extravagant lunches in Hackney till you realise you really can’t afford it anymore. Then you just have beer.”
Everyone agreed that getting out the house is vital for maintaining momentum, getting inspiration and not feeling so alone, and top places to work are Central Saint Martins studios, a “noisy bar,” the Southbank and the Barbican library, we’re told. However, loneliness isn’t something that bothers designer duo Yarza Twins. For them, the real struggle of freelance life is in the lean periods (both metaphorically and literally).”It’s really hard to make people pay us!,” they say. “We are super skinny so we need to eat quite a lot, but people don´t even try to pay for our lunch!” Moth Collective agree – the biggest annoyance for them is when “you have to eat yet another pitta and hummus dinner at the studio in late hours because you re still chasing that client in New York who won’t bloody pay you…”
“I work, work, work, panic, drink, then work again.”
Hummus and beer are the chosen fuel of creatives, it seems. Describing the reality of freelancing, photographer Benjamin Swanson summed it up: “I work, work, work, panic, drink, then work again.”
The lovely illustrations you can see were created by Working Not Working member Jay Daniel Wright, and will be on show at London’s tokyobike store in Shoreditch, with an opening party on 19 June at 7pm. This is just one of WNW’s many free London events running all this week, and you can see the full itinerary and links to sign up here.
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