How To Survive Freelancing For The First Time

My Experience So Far Being Nudged Into Freelance

I thought I was one of the lucky ones. Still working as a full time production assistant for a TVC company that was still running shoots and pumping out content during one of the worlds worst economic downturns and pandemics. Despite a sense of uneasiness I had about the role (Read more in my blog here) I was going to be grateful for the fact that I had work, and was making it work, despite the circumstances.

And then the worst happened.

For a reason totally unrelated to Covid-19 I lost this job in one of the most unexpected and heartbreaking moments of my career so far. Each day since the incident has been gradually getting easier, but the shock does still hit me occasionally along with the feelings of dread, lack of self worth, and anxiety.

But I am a big believer that there is a reason for everything and I think the universe was throwing me a great opportunity to do something I had been tossing up and making excuses not to do, which is going freelance. Arguably the most common way people work in the film industry. Most projects don’t last long enough for full time positions so unless you happen to work exclusively for a production company, like I had been, you are working freelance. Signing on to different projects for different people one after the other.

Part of me relished in the positive aspects of this. The freedom of choice, the variety of work, the move away from the routine office life, being able to be my own boss, and having time to work on my own projects. However that’s not to say my previous reservations about freelancing didn’t resurface either. The concern about cashflow, doubting my own abilities, the worries of not finding the motivation to go and seek new work or pursue those creative projects I’ve been so antsy about starting.

It is these fears that made me wish I had gone freelance on my own terms. That made me wish I’d had time to set myself up properly before deciding to quit full time work. That made me wish this hadn’t happened during a pandemic! But the forceful push into this new career path I’m quickly realising was probably the only way I would have ever been able to do it. And I have been doing it for about a month now.

It’s certainly a new style of work that I am not used to in the slightest. Having always had externally provided structure in my daily life from school to university and into full time work, this is the first time that I am 100% in control of how I want to structure what I do in a day…and it’s really daunting.

There are new challenges at every turn both in terms of running a business and inside my own mind. Motivation has been the biggest hurdle for me thus far and working for yourself requires a much higher level of it than I anticipated. I have also discovered that I really suck at working from home. With so many distractions including housework, the lure of Netflix and that comfy couch calling my name being inside my own house is like a black hole for productivity. Going for walks has helped a bit but not having a seperate space to go to work in is turning out one of the biggest things I wish I had. My best weapon against demotivation so far is honestly just sucking it up and doing what needs to be done. Whilst this is no glamorous solution is has been working okay and hopefully in the future I can actually set myself up a proper work space outside of my home.

The money thing hasn’t really struck me fully yet but I’m sure come tax time I may realise that I need to hire an accountant. I’ve become hyper aware of saving any and all receipts for things I think I might be able to claim as necessary for my new job. I also spent a good chunk of time whipping up an invoice template that looks legit, resorting folders on my external hard drive for projects, and busying myself with organisational admin that is probably completely pointless but means I can potentially convince myself I need a new notebook. But on a more serious note I am well aware of the sheer lack of knowledge I have about running a business. Particularly in areas like super, insurance, GST etc. So my aim is to brush up on these areas next so I don’t find myself in any tricky spots down the line.

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The other hurdle I’ve encountered is equipment. I dabbled in videography work even when I was working full time, but since I wasn’t really using the gear I had that much I didn’t consider it a must to spend money on extra pieces. However now that I’m making it my job to film things I have discovered that I am in need of a few things to make sure the quality of what I shoot is worth what I’m being paid. I wrote an article previously about the Top 5 Pieces of Gear to have as a filmmaker and whilst I had most of these, the gaps are beginning to show. I’ve also realised there are a handful of extra bits such as a new lens and a better computer on top of this basic kit I could get to really take my production to the next level and increase my worth as a freelancer.

I don’t really know what’s next for me. This is the first time I have just ridden the boat to see where it takes me and whilst I have been incredibly lucky to have some connections who hired me straight away, I know it won’t be easy to move away from the comfort zone of the people I know and try and take on things I’ve never tried before. New experiences are terrifying, but also we wouldn’t even have films much less those directed by women if we never stepped outside of our comfort zones or embraced that feeling in our hearts of wanting to create.

If you are thinking of going freelance in the filmmaking world all I can say is just fricking do it. I was waiting for the right time to pursue my goal of being a filmmaker and the truth is there will never be a better time than right now. The push out into the universe will be the best thing that ever happens to you even if it may be daunting AF. All the learning you do along the way will be far more beneficial than the fear of having to learn it.

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