The Human Freelancer

Happy and honest self-employment for conscientious newcomers

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It’s time for a follow-up to my first post tackling common reservations and fears which hold talented, creative people like you back from going freelance.

Meet ‘M’

Softly spoken M came to chat with me at Leeds Beckett’s ‘Kick Start Your Freelance Career‘ event where I was spraying one-to-ones at students thinking about going freelance. Understated, retiring even, M came across like the polite accountant he was taught how to be.

We shared a routine conversation for a few minutes, about how he was thinking of going freelance but didn’t know how to translate his studies and skills into a livelihood. Neither of us was particularly sure what he could do with his degree, other than the obvious route to becoming yet another affluent number cruncher.

No one’s really qualified to tell someone else how to live their life but it was becoming painfully obvious that a gobshite like me and a polite accountant doesn’t create a fertile breeding ground for cogent discussion.

Time to come at this from a different angle

I asked M what he liked about accountancy. All the usual stuff – profit, calculators, golf… and risk. Luckily I’d done a bit of copywriting work, as a freelancer myself, for a client who worked in credit fraud risk so I picked him up on that. It was a bit geeky but interesting nonetheless, and maybe it’d give our conversation the kick up the arse it desperately needed.

M’s eyes widened: I’d stumbled upon a subject he enjoys, and suddenly you couldn’t shut him up. He was grinning, articulating his hands and effusing the merits of customer analysis, algorithms and big data. It was like watching a lit firework at an unsafe distance. And as a listener, I could tell this was his passion – what he loved, just from the conviction in his voice.

What’s your button?

Poor M’s problem was that he’d jumped straight to the bit where you’re chewing over what it is you do (for clients), the bit immediately before you begin telling the world about it (then eventually make a living). So he’d skipped the crucial first step where you navel-gaze about what you want out of this: what do you enjoy doing, and how do you want to spend the rest of your life?

Likewise, if M went around telling people he was just a plain old accountant he wouldn’t attract the kind of clients and projects he wants to work with (although being an accountant he’d probably still do very well for himself). So we spoke a little about that too – why talking with passion and conviction and being genuine endears you to people, and people who know people.

All M has to do is go back to basics: consider how your natural talents, inclinations and ambitions fuel what you enjoy. The more specific, the better. Really strip it back to its essentials. For me, it’s taking things apart to understand how they work – making complicated things simpler and better. For M it could be discovering truths lurking where everyone else misses them (insight from data).

When you begin doing that, you’ll discover work that fits around you and ultimately better understand your place in the world. Then you can go out there and start inhabiting it.

The Human Freelancer book

LOOK! There's a book full of this shit and more!

Self-help business books perpetuate the myth that success is relentless growth and more of everything means progress. They preach about bookkeeping and market research: things you might need to do of course. But let’s face it they’re fucking boring.

The Human Freelancer book is your antidote: stuffed full of emotional support and insightful advice for vulnerable newbies to self-employment like you.

Buy it now