I get that a lot. My wife will call and say “Hey, are you busy?” If she’s in the push-your-husband’s-button mood, she’ll follow up with something like “because if you’re just sitting around….” Truth be told, after nearly 25 yrs together, I don’t rise to the bait anymore because she knows the truth about freelancing better than anyone else I know.

What’s the truth?

The truth is that being a freelancer DOES provide for a lot of free time. That free time is absolutely great…………..that is, if you like the idea of being unemployed.

If you want to be a working freelancer, someone who actually works on assignment and earns a living from photography, then you better get used to the idea that being a working freelancer provides for less free time, in my opinion, than most  “regular” 40-hour-a-week jobs. Consider that most working freelancers, even those with agencies representing them, do 99.9% of the work themselves. And I’m not talking about shooting. I’m talking about everything else. A very average non-shooting day has me wearing many hats. Take today as an example, I am a:

  1. Picture Editor (selecting images from a recent shoot to upload to my archive and to my agency)
  2. Imaging Tech (post production work Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop)
  3. Marketing Director (emailing, tweeting and blogging)
  4. Licensing Director (negotiating with a non-profit over use of an image)
  5. Technical Support (updating and installing new software on MacBook and Mac desktop)

That’s just to name a few. No complaints, that’s just the way it is if you want to be a working freelancer. No laying around on the job.

Which really leads me to the catalyst for this post. In order to accomplish these daily tasks, you must have a office, right? Not a closet with a space big enough for a 10″ netbook balancing precariously on a box of old slides, but a legitimate office. In other words, use the same approach to work as you would if you had to clock in at the 40-hr-a-week job. If you do so, you’ll find your productivity and, by default, your business, doing much better. Set a time to be at the office and have the necessary equipment and space needed to do your job well every day. Make your office a great place to be. Since I’m the boss (despite what my wife says), I decide how to set-up my office. That’s important, more so than most realize, because I need to enjoy being in my office so that I can get my work done each and every day. It’s what helps me maintain the discipline to grind through the less glamorous part of being a working freelancer. Years ago I purchased a nice, large desk with ample desktop space and filing cabinets and the most comfortable chair I could afford. I keep the space as clutter free as possible and have arranged for a couple of work spaces revolving around the desktop computer and the laptop. The walls are painted warm earth tones (courtesy of my wife!) that make the room feel inviting. I keep pages for Facebook and other social sites that can eat up my time closed during the day. If I need to post something on FB that is business related, then I post it and log off. Few will argue how much “work” time can be wasted if you’re constantly updating, replying, posting, tagging, farming etc…..Invoices, expenses and business contracts are filed at arms length so that I can grab them without much searching if need be. Hard drives are easily accessible and labeled in the event I need to quickly find images for clients. Music streams from the internet over nice speakers and a window provides for fresh air and sunlight. In other words, it’s a “normal” office despite being in my home.

Along with having a nice office, try sticking to a disciplined work schedule. It’s so easy as a freelancer to find “free” time, but being a working freelancer requires due diligence that far exceeds just the shooting time. However, I try to take a literal lunch break. During that time, I take a half hour or more to grab a bite to eat, sit outside in the sun with a book or go for a run. It’s important to break away from the office. I have a favorite spot where I can listen to some water flowing and enjoy being outside for a few minutes. I typically come back feeling ready to get back to work for a few more hours.

All of this is meant to make the necessary and often tedious work beyond shooting a bit more enjoyable. It’s worked for me……………

One comment on “Are You Busy?
  1. I must hand it to you, Todd. You are way more disciplined than me. When I freelanced, I did get assignments, but not enough to live an enjoyable lifestyle. I earned enough for basic survival. I wasn’t as organized as you. That’s why I had to get back on a newspaper staff where a lot of the things that you handle as your own boss are done for me. I admire your motivation. I love news and love reporting, but I also love paid vacation time and paid holidays and paid sick days when I can be off if need be.
    Still, there’s something to be said for being self-employed and calling the shots.

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