Saturday, May 23, 2009

5 Things I Learned in Freelance

Ozkirbas wrote some time ago of the five things he learned in his first year of law school and it got me thinking. Because I, like him and every other recent grad, have the PC answer to "so what are you doing now?" rote and memorized, and it gets shorter and shorter every time. Can you describe how your whole life has turned on its head in 10 seconds or less? Ready, GO. No one asks how I've changed, or what I've learned.

And this is fine, even preferable, for idle conversation with my hairdresser. But as the newest class of ex-students hits This Economy, I'd like to impart some of the most important things I've learned in my year of "freelance," or "gainful unemployment," as it were.


1) Everything is tax-deductable.
And I mean EVERYTHING. Mileage, classes, headshots, laundry, ink, paper, programs, lunch out, Netflix. You work for yourself, so
everything you pay for that has to do with your work is tax-deductable. So write it all down as it happens, or you will either be stuck with the (read: MASSIVE) job in March, or you will simply lose all that money. And since you're freelance, money is a tease; sometimes joyously abundant but more often just out of reach.

2) Don't burn bridges.
Just, don't. It's pretty much the worst thing you could ever do for yourself professionally. This is not to say you have to kiss up to everyone you hate, just don't necessarily tell them if you hate them. And don't give them any reason to hate you.
It will happen anyway, but there's no need to go around making people who could help you hate you.

3) Keep in contact with people.
The people you just graduated with are now your network of support. Use them, love them, support them, keep them close to your heart. Reach out to people who graduated before you; they know the ropes and want to help you because they remember all too clearly how it was when they first graduated. Pass their names on, give them jobs, and they will do so in return for you. There's a reason all famous people know each other, and that reason is called networking and patronage.

4) Days off don't exist.
You work from home, remember? You LIVE at work. And because you've gone into entertainment, your job is to be at work when other people are off work. And because you get paid on a contract by contract basis in a largely non-profit field, you're always looking for more work. Be ready to plan vacations months in advance and not see your roommates and friends for days on end, especially if you have a lot of friends and roommates who have "real" jobs... or also if your friends and roommates are in theatre, because they're working on shows too.
But it becomes a norm, and you'll eventually find yourself like me on a day like today, in which I am enjoying my first full day off in months and months with no plans, no work, and nothing I need to be working on for future plans. And by "enjoying" I mean "bored as hell." So here we are.

5) You'll be fine.
Really. You'll probably have to get a day job that you'll probably hate, you'll live with the acute sensation that NPR is ALWAYS talking about you, you might even move in with your parents (if you can, it's actually a great idea). But at the end of the day, you are doing what you spent four years training to do. You are (hopefully) doing good, fulfilling work. You are an Artist. A professional; you're being paid (usually) to do what you love. You're making friends, finding connections, making professional contacts. Every day you are closer to being independent and in control of your life, or maybe you already are. And you're making it in a country that is not particularly kind to the arts. That's pretty cool, and a lot of people don't have that luxury, so revel in it. Please.
Because if being an artist isn't fun for you, then it's time to go back to med school* because The Life is simply not worth it.

Special side note: The sixth thing I learned in freelance is that I am good enough to be paid. I deserve to be paid for my skills, and there are people out there who will pay me. Of course, this does not mean I'll pass up an opportunity at a struggling theater that does great work, it just means I know what my skills and I as a person, as a worker and artist, are worth. And that could be the most important thing, but it somehow doesn't fit on this list.

Like fellow Gentleman ali d told me, there are three reasons you ever take work, and they are the people, the money, and the art. If you don't have two of those three factors at all times, then you will not be happy. And if you're not happy, then med school is looking pretty good from here.

* when I say "med school" I really mean "a stable job that makes good money even if you hate it."


Anonymous said...

And here we are. Love that you used it, but you still owe me a drink.

Ozkirbas said...

Completely fantastic

Stephen said...

Cool list. I'm all for tax deductions.