'Free' in 'Freelancer' does not mean FREE!

I am very proud to say that I am one month away from my first anniversary as a freelancer! It certainly has been a rollercoaster of an experience through both highs and lows! What has emerged from my ‘lows’ is the notion of ‘la la land’ – the land of empty promises and dangling carrots from potential new clients that leave you feeling exploited as a freelancer.

It begins like this…You meet the potential new client, you get the mwah mwah air kisses, the spiel about how much they love your work and how they can really see you fit in within their team blah blah blah. You walk away feeling on top of the world ready to smash it and apply for the next series of The Apprentice! This is then followed by another meeting. Again all nicey nice until they drop the big one…they’d like to take you on for the first three months and if you deliver and meet their sales goals then and only then they would be happy to start paying me!

This is just one scenario out of a handful that I have experienced this year. Call me naïve but it still leaves me gobsmacked how people have the nerve to conduct business like this. In their view, they are doing ME a favour with the all the promises of the glittery lights, ‘exposure’ and ‘experience’ in ‘la la land’ despite the fact that I already have solid eight years of marketing experience behind me in a variety of industries and sectors. No matter how cleverly and attractively its packaged, its still called exploitation and serves an important reminder to businesses that ‘FREE’ in the word ‘freelancers’ does not mean that we work for FREE.  We are all highly skilled and experienced individuals who deserve respect for having the guts and tenacity to break out on our own and follow our passion. Like everyone else, we also have bills to pay, not in three months time where the carrot is dangled but at the end of this month, the end of next month and so on.

On the flip side, these sorts of experiences have made me wiser and have made me learn the following lessons:

-       Trust your gut instinct

-       You have the inner strength and power to walk away when things just do not feel right

-       You have the power to choose your ideal clients

Thanks to these lessons, nearly a year on, I feel more confident in who I want to work with and most importantly I have maintained my self-respect, sanity and integrity. They come in all guises and I am pretty sure that I will fall foul of these wolves dressed in fluffy sheep’s clothing again at some point in the future but I am confident that I have developed a good nose to sniff out these time wasters and exploiters!