Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Freelance Rules #12 - Be of strong constitution

You'll get plenty of knock-backs as a freelancer and to make a real go of it, it helps to have the constitution of an ox.

I've been at my desk since about 7.30am today. My elder daughter, off school with an Autumn bug, has kept me company for some of the time, though she has headed back to bed now. To be honest, I'm not feeling great at the moment - the kids go back to school each Autumn and bring home every virus and infection going. And they're very 'sharing', my kids. For the last couple of days I've had a dull headache and have a lovely scratchy throat to accompany it. But as a freelancer, you simply have to rise above such man flu.

Back in the day when I was a magazine journalist, I thought nothing of missing the odd mid-week day after a big night out. When I moved over to corporate life, my work ethic improved, but if I didn't feel 100%, I would call in sick knowing full well that I'd still get paid. Once, when I picked up horrendous food poisoning in Paris and was off for a fortnight (and lost a stone and a half in the process), I was particularly glad for that payment security blanket. Though, as the symptoms recurred over the next year while I struggled to finally get the bug our of my system, my boss was less impressed by the additional half dozen days I racked up in sick leave.

When I started working for myself, everything changed. I have insurance that covers me if I can't work, but it's very restrictive and kicks in only after six weeks. So, the equation for me is simple. If I don't work, I don't get paid. It's amazing the change that understanding prompts. In 11 years, I've only had to cancel work appointments twice. I've never been ill for more than a couple of days (and try and save those for weekends) and regularly work through the minor illnesses that would have sent me in search of my duvet in 'employed' days. Okay, I have coughed and spluttered through a few meetings; attended one where I couldn't sit down having been bitten on the backside by a big bug who didn't wipe his feet; and pitched for a new account in a mis-matched suit jacket and trousers put on in a migraine haze. But the upshot is, the fear of not earning is a fantastic medicine.

There's nothing unusual in my situation - just about every freelance I know operates in the same way. We all know that if we're not around to take on the work, someone else will.

So, if you're thinking about taking the freelance plunge, think about your health and your ability to work through the sniffles. If you're a bit of a fragile flower, you probably won't last long working for yourself.  


joyanu said...

your constitution is very strong why?

Mark Shanahan said...

No stronger than others - more about willingness to work; attitude to get things done - and realisation that no work = no income.