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Freelancing 2.0
By: Tom Roarty
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Many years ago, I gave corporate freelancing a try. I was just a few years out of school and wanted to break away from the magazine work I was doing for a while. At the time, I was fairly confident in my abilities because at my previous, and only full-time, gig, I had everything under control on a daily basis. It wouldn’t take long to find out that my new business direction would be much different.
The first client I worked for was a Top 10 financial company. Coming from a music magazine, I had quite a few questions for my placement agent. After the gig was over, I had even more questions. The reason for all of the questions was the great contrast between staff and freelance positions. As a staffer, you have time to learn what your employers expect from you and the process by which they would like it done. If you are involved with a startup, there is the ability to help establish the protocols necessary to get tasks done. When freelancing, a lot of that does not exist.
For those of you who have not freelanced on a corporate level and are thinking of trying it, know this: You have just hours to make a great impression. Is that a lot of pressure for you, the designer? Indeed it is, but in a competitive market, there is a line of people just waiting for you to screw up so they can take your place. The way I was introduced to my first gig was as follows: I received a call at 6 p.m. asking if I could be in at 9 a.m. the next morning. I was asked to bring in a computer with the latest graphics software on it and be prepared to stay late.
It is stressful to walk into any new environment, but in the case of a freelancer it is even more nerve-wracking. You don’t have time to plan your day, week, month, or however long the assignment is. The tasks change from day to day, and you usually have no way of knowing what they are. So it is kind of like walking on a tightrope with no net. Plus, there is always the case of getting assigned something you have no idea how to do; such was the case with my first assignment. Was it an embarrassing situation? It sure was, but it was a lesson learned 20 years ago and never forgotten. Always ask what your assignment details are before you walk into a gig.
So what has changed in 20 years now that I am freelancing once again? Not too much, actually. There are still the nerves of what the next gig holds, and the fear of not being able to live up to your expectations.  However, there is also the variety of clients and excitement of fresh projects. Plus, a lot of recruiters will get you work based on hourly rates, with over- and double-time as a possibility, something staffers rarely see! So as this new/old venture starts, I’m feeling pretty good about it. Maybe next week I’ll post a checklist from this week’s findings.

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