05 Oct 10 more things nobody tells you about freelancing
More thoughts on impermanent employment by Annie Brookstone, still freelancing, still in her pyjamas.
It’s been four long months since I shared my OG list with you, and for those of you who have survived a long winter of exposure, client kak, series season breaks and Bizcom newsletters, I bring you another instalment of ‘OMFG, why did no one tell me about this?!’: Freelance Edition. Here are 10 more shiny chicken nuggets of wisdom.
1. I hate to go into admin this early in the list but if I’m going to make anyone cry I might as well do it now, so… You’re probably going to automatically get taxed 25% – and no, no one gives a shit that you’re a starving artist. See, the way it works is that most clients deduct your PAYE (pay-as-you-earn income tax) before you see any money and kindly pay it over to SARS on your behalf. Translation: no one trusts your starving artist ass to do the legal thing and pay it to SARS yourself. Back when I had a Real Job as an editor and had to explain this to the freelancers working for me, it always felt a little like giving a kid a puppy (yes, holy shit, a commission!) before unceremoniously chopping off one of its legs.
2. On the plus side, when it comes to tax return time, no starving artist should actually be paying 25% of their money over to anyone other than their weed dealer, so SARS throws you a bone. Shhh, you don’t know what puppy tastes like.
3. You know how sometimes when you’re stuck in that weird hypnotic Tinder loop of swiping left faster than images can load or when you’re playing Pokémon Go and you are literally channelling Ash, and just as you stumble across an actual hottie or that Supermegafishyguy creature (lol, idk), your phone does that weird thing? A series of random numbers suddenly appear on the screen, it starts vibrating furiously and it screeches this shrill tune that sounds like something you heard in a nightmare about a meerkat once? This, my friends, is called a phone call. The millennial tendency when confronted with a “phone call” is to immediately fling the offending object into the closest body of water or, alternatively, to keep very, very still until it loses interest. This is wrong. You need to answer that shit. Non-millennials (aka the people likely to have money to pay you because they haven’t spent it all on data and bespoke bacon) still like to make phone calls. They feel weird around emojis and text speak makes them sweat. Don’t get me wrong: ninety-nine percent of the time it’ll be some asshole trying to sell you a phone contract or the bank trying to increase your credit card limit (“Uh, you guys do know I don’t actually have a job, right?), but just sometimes…
4. It’s going to feel like you are literally burning money, but you’re allowed to say “no”. A little voice in your head will always chime up, “Why waste time sleeping/wanking/seeing friends when I could be earning more of that sweet, sweet cash?” Don’t listen to it: more time to sleep, wank and see your friends is why you went freelance in the first place – the last vestiges of your soul are tethered to these unspoiled pleasures.
5. Even though you know you can say no, it still takes about five years before you’re actually able to do it, and you still find yourself lying in bed hyperventilating about it and cry-wanking in the dark every time you do.
6. No one ever actually asks to see your CV… until you haven’t updated it in five years and you’re trying to cram 5732 jobs onto the requested two pages. Accept this for what it is: sometimes your work speaks for itself, sometimes your reputations precedes you (yes, people talk about you) and sometimes some dude in a suit still gives a damn about where you went to high school.
7. But everyone looks at your social media. Calling yourself a guru, maverick, maven, visionary or ninja of anything is client anathema. Unless you are an actual ninja – that’s cool af.
8. When you fuck yourself, you fuck everybody – and I’m not talking about point 4. You know why clients expect you to be willing to work for exposure? Because somebody set that precedent before you. The client doesn’t know how much time and energy goes into what you do, so don’t let them be the ones deciding what you’re worth. Isn’t there a Beyoncé song about this?
9. Speaking of songs, there is no hustle montage. There’s no cool hype track intercut with scenes of you confidently sending emails, shaking hands with industry bigwigs, furiously masturbating and high-fiving yourself for every successful pitch. Nah bruh, it’s more like the goddamn director’s cut, with each carefully worded, painstakingly typed email; each awkward telephone call, and every sweaty minute spent circling the CBD looking for parking when you’re already late for your 2pm meeting all set to the soundtrack of your own heavy breathing.
10. No job ever really feels complete. You could tweak, fiddle and fuss for hours more but sometimes a deadline rolls around and you’ve just got to –
Annie Brookstone is a feminist first, nihilist second. Follow her on Twitter.
If you haven’t seen Annie’s first 10 tips for freelancers, head over here.