The Human Freelancer

Happy and honest self-employment for conscientious newcomers

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Doing bugger all most of the time sounds like a marvellous way of life. Sadly it’s not. When you extricate yourself from nine-to-five, five day flagellation, you enter a whole new world that’s far less populous and more overwhelming.

So a new problem presents itself: how do you fill the void that employment once filled?

Work, in the context of employment to an organisation, gives people purpose, structured time and identity within a community of like-minded folk. When you brave it as a standalone freelancer, not only do you forfeit that, you risk swinging too far in the opposite direction of the nine-to-five routine. Especially if you’re highly principled like me and make freelancing your solo-protest against the treadmill of drudgery, avarice and consumerism.

If most people work too much, then I’ve ended up working too little – it’s just another unhealthy extreme on the same spectrum. I’ve discovered there’s only so much pottering about you can do; you know your days are slipping away aimlessly when pivotal moments in your day are a gluttonous double chicken kiev sarnie and playing hide and seek with the window cleaner.

Unfortunately, peoples’ shit lives go on

And while you protest against work by not taking part, the rest of the world – your friends and family – keeps on doing it. That leaves you lonely, feeling left out, even if you’ve got a thousand hobbies and rarely sit still like I do. Without a sense of belonging to something bigger and knowing your place within it from one day to the next, you’re creating the perfect conditions for isolation, apathy and depression.

Once those fuckers take hold it can be hard to break the cycle of doing bugger all. Your protest ceases to be joyful and soon becomes a meaningless succession of diversionary tasks as your mind seeks new purpose.

Find your balance

There has to be an equilibrium between being part of the working world, and being part of the cream cake glitterati (or whatever other hobbies keep you happy in your free time). By the way, we aren’t discussing the bile-inducing idea of fitting relationships and other commitments around your career or ‘work-life balance’, as every misguided white-collar tosspiece might call it. There is only life and different activities within it, work being as valid as any other.

Whatever arrangement you decide upon has to work for you, and you must be disciplined about it. For me, it seems working two days per week, ten til four in a coworking space is just enough to maintain that healthy connection. That leaves the weekend for catching up with friends and three days for tickling vegetables or exercise. I endeavour to plan my week ahead too, albeit very roughly, and that structure keeps anxiety at bay and adds direction to my week.

Apathy, or a sunny day occasionally dissuade me from work, but I rarely regret slotting myself back onto the conveyor belt of commerce for a day or two, knowing I’ll get shit done then readily slide back off when I’ve digested enough business.

Until everyone else knacks off work for a life-long sabbatical us human freelancers have to find our place in the working world if we’re to make a living from it. That means compromise, and carving out a niche between playing the nine-to-five game and then subverting it the rest of the time. And remember: just because you have to rejoin the thronging masses of zombified stooges to get shit done doesn’t mean you become one of them.

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.

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