Over the past year I have discovered that being a freelancer may lend itself to flexi time and more freedom to do other things but being a serious freelancer is a full time job. Instead of trundling off to the beach whenever there is a gap between briefs or lying in when the work is slow, I find that I have a set working routine that involves being at my desk at 7am, having the same attachment to my Blackberry as any other busy exec, and a Moleskine full of daily to do’s. But how did I get here?
Blame it on social media
Social media is no longer just about being sociable. We are constantly being told that if you as a professional are not out there then you are losing out. But where exactly is there? And how can one person be in so many places at the same time?
You see, there is Twitter, FaceBook and LinkedIn. These are the basics. But what about Google+? And Youtube? And my blog? Then in South Africa we have our very own networking site profiles to look after. Add to this freelancer sites where my profile is listed and I have a full dance card.
Keeping up appearances
But being on social media or having a few profiles posted isn’t enough. These need to be nurtered, maintained, discussions need to be started or joined, introductions made. While all this is happening there is the need to come up with something interesting for my followers and social media reputation. For some people this is a hobby, for me it is my profession. Some days I find it exciting that I can choose any topic and put it out there in the public domain, other days I find the task daunting – like being the shy girl at the party, desperately trying to think of something to say so the cute guy in the corner notices me. Social media is all about keeping up appearances, making yourself known, being that person who is able to go up to anyone, thrust out a hand and say “Hi, I am …., notice me.”
Being my own boss, marketing director, account director, HR manager
Part of my work is to help companies with their marketing and communications. Other than writing the copy that will draw in new clients or talk to existing ones or to their staff, I have nothing to do with acquiring new business, human resources or running the company. Yet, for my own business I fulfill all these roles. Because I am my own boss, I carry the responsibilities any boss would. I am also in charge of my own marketing, have sole custody of finding new clients and handling existing ones, and I am the person I turn to when it comes to leave days, sick days, end of year bonus and keeping me happy. Now these are all time consuming jobs in themselves but when I am working on the work I promise to do, I have to fit these other jobs around my working schedule. Then again, as the boss and HR manager, I can’t very well tell myself I can’t work late because I need to be somewhere and expect to get away with it.
Writing my own CV
When I made the decision to work freelance, my CV became less about who I worked for (it’s a bit difficult to give myself an objective reference) and more about my professional reputation. My performance review comes around every time I complete a job. My key performance areas change with each new brief. There is something exciting about being my own boss, about writing my own CV, choosing my own working life. There is also the sometimes daunting feeling of being responsible for whatever happens, the burden of keeping track of everything I have done and am wanting to do, the fear of making the wrong choices. Sometimes I think I am crazy to do this job that requires so many extra hours and skills. Other times I am able to realise: those hours, those skills, that extra bit of admin has contributed to my growth not only as a freelancer but as a business person too.
Caroline Cowan is a member of SAFREA.