Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
By: Bor Klemenc Mencin
That was fast. It seems like only yesterday that I wrote my first entry. I remember feeling tired and fed up, but giddy all at the same time. I had no way of knowing how things would pan out for me. My thoughts were continuously scrambling between “I got this.” and “Dear Lawd, I hope I survive for at least a month or two.” Now, after more than a year of freelancing, it seems like I finally got it figured out.
I know this is going to sound cheesy as fuck, but I learned a couple of things about myself this past year. Things that would’ve probably been difficult to realise had I stayed at my desk job. Like the way I handle business relationships, how I approach a project, how I go about talking to clients, how I react when I think people are trying to screw me over; that type of stuff. By no means have I gone full Buddha mode in this regard (yet), but it’s nice to know.
During this past year, I was also able to do stuff I couldn’t have otherwise. When you’re expected to sit in an office for 8+ hours five days of the week, some options are bound to be off the table. Like going for a 3-hour lunch with friends, prolonging your vacation for a few extra days, getting fucked up on a Tuesday, attending a random all-day event on a Wednesday or directing a music video on a Thursday. Besides being fun, this was probably the most sociable and enriching year I had since finishing college.
But it wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows. There were a few occasions where I had to chase down an invoice from an unresponsive client. I also had to become my own financial planner (oh, joy). I witnessed how the client-intermediary-freelancer process breaks down first-hand. I dealt with clients who had no idea about what they really wanted and I had to face up to some of my bad decisions as well. Not all projects were a success. Thankfully, all these experiences were duly noted for future reference.
Fortunately, I also had and continue to have the pleasure of collaborating with some amazing people. I worked with a couple of brilliant creative directors, each with his own unique way of making the magic happen. I crossed paths with talented designers, skilful project managers and thoughtful clients. This year I probably learned as much about advertising as I had in the previous three combined due to the sheer number of people I met, roles I played and different circumstances I found myself in.
Slowly but surely I ticked off all of the goals I said would make this thing worthwhile for me. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty much what I wanted it to be. I’m in my element and I can’t picture myself back at a desk job. I feel as though this is the way things ought to be. At least for the time being. That said, there are a couple of things I have to mention before giving you my take on whether you should or shouldn’t go for it.
The first is the fact that I started freelancing when the market started to regain its momentum and marketing budgets were beefing up – I probably wouldn’t have made the same decision during a downturn. The second is that the advertising scene in Slovenia is pretty small and starving for creatives with at least a couple of years of experience, so word spread quickly and I landed a new project almost every week without having to put myself out there. The third is that I wasn’t a “full-time” freelancer from the get-go, but I.
I also compiled a list of key takeaways:
It’s not for the faint-hearted (duh)
As a freelancer, you have to do a lot of negotiating and take full responsibility for your mistakes. You should be able to say no and be thick-skinned and tough when you have to.
It’s not for those who like standing on firm ground
Not knowing when and where your next job will come from can be daunting. Also, weeks go by where you’re sitting there with hardly anything to do when you suddenly get swept under a tsunami of work.
It’s not as easy as it looks
Freelancing can be stressful because what you’re doing is managing a business. That means securing a job, getting it done, making sure you get paid for it, scheduling, managing your finances, investing, etc. It takes a little getting used to.
It can be lucrative
As a freelancer, you’re free to set your own fee. If you’re smart about it, you can rake in some serious cash. On certain occasions, you can earn what most would consider a decent monthly paycheck in under a week (but that’s more of an exception, rather than the rule).
It can be rewarding
Sitting at an agency, you rarely get to decide what projects cross your table. As a freelancer, you can say no to the crap you don’t want and incinerate your neurons on more meaningful, interesting or idiotic stuff.
It can be liberating
Both physically and mentally. Not being constrained to one place and being constantly on the go makes the creative juices flow. For me, having the freedom to be spontaneous (as noted above) is one of the biggest perks of freelancing, though it can be tough to counteract.
It’s extremely insightful
It’s all one big learning experience. You’re gonna be richer and wiser for it. You may know the ins and outs of a place – the culture, the processes, the office politics – but there are as many ways of getting the job done as there are agencies out there. Why limit yourself to just one or two?
Now, here’s my take.
If you’ve been thinking about doing it for a while and if, after reading this, you feel you’re up to the challenge: go for it. If you haven’t got a family to support and if you’re not swimming in debt, it’s a no-brainer. And if you somehow still think you shouldn’t, here’s a little extra nudge: you’ll probably regret it if you don’t. One thing that helped me make my decision final was imagining how I would feel about it 20 years from now: would I be OK with not having a go at it when I had the chance?
To be fair, working at an agency has many perks. Yes, there’s safety, stability and routine. But they’re also full of character, intimate friendships and the spirit of camaraderie. There are office shenanigans, bonding experiences and wild parties aplenty (and you can add a festival or two into the mix for good measure). If you feel you simply can’t go without one or more of these things for more than a day, you probably shouldn’t do it.
The way we think about work is changing. Even in our region, freelancing is increasingly being considered a legitimate pursuit. The agency model is broken and I believe most would agree that the whole industry is in need of a serious transformation. Unfortunately, I don’t see any signs of revolution coming from within anytime soon. Maybe the way to slowly change the game is by more people opting out of it altogether and rebooting themselves into a different mindset. I hope at least some of my writing was helpful in this regard.
P.S.: A big shoutout to Ekrem and Media Marketing for giving me a platform to share my experiences. Also, a big shoutout to everyone who kept up with the posts, everyone who reached out to me, and everyone who supports my freelance thing. You know who you are.