Freelance Files: The First Leap into Freelancing

The last time I wrote for The Study Room I was climbing the ladder in the television industry as a Production Coordinator. Mainly working in Reality and Entertainment TV, I precariously stepped up that ladder a rung or two to the role of Junior Production Manager.

Then I jumped; with no regard for the Health & Safety that I was responsible for monitoring day in day out at work, I threw myself off that ladder into the abyss and I am only now thinking about what happens when I hit the ground. If someone could get the medic on set, that would be great.

Whilst I am searching for some kind of metaphorical parachute, I am reminded of one thing I learned along the way about the life of a freelancer – structure. How important it is either during periods of unemployment, or when trying to secure work, to effectively structure my time. I am not talking about those well-deserved breaks after gruelling jobs or not enjoying your well-earned down time, but rather when it comes to organising myself effectively for work within the looser boundaries of freelance life.

Now to be perfectly clear, I have yet to master this - I spent a long time ‘structuring’ my time around a Netflix series or filling my days with visits from my other freelance TV friends (it’s ok to be in the pub at 3pm on a Tuesday, right?) – but I quickly learned that was not the kind of structure that ultimately makes me feel good about myself or allowed for any productivity. Now, for the sake of my own mental health and my dwindling (dwindled) bank account, I am trying to structure my time much more effectively.

I am currently looking to change my career to one that requires a different kind of structure and discipline – a writer. It will be easy; I will take myself off to a cabin in the woods and let my creative juices flow out of me and onto a page, I will soon be the next J.K Rowling and in no time at all I will be able to buy myself an entire forest of those magic cabins if I wanted to.

If only it was that easy – I did jump blindly off a ladder, remember? To help myself, I am now introducing some structure into my days in the following ways:

1. Apple Cider Vinegar

What has writing got to do with salad dressing you ask? Every single morning without fail I now take a spoonful of this unpleasant tasting liquid which is said to aid in lowering and regulating my blood sugar levels and if Hippocrates advocated for it, then I’m on board. Placebo effect or not, it makes me feel better about myself for the rest of the day just knowing that I did it and it’s a great (albeit bitter) reminder that my day has started.

2. Exercise

Those that know me will not describe me as ‘fitness mad’ it’s just not who I am. Who I am however, is someone in desperate need of change and so recently I have been adjusting my attitude and exercising, in some form, every single day. I am attempting to swim for 1 hour every day. Of course, there are times when life gets in the way and so I am aiming to incorporate exercise in other ways - be it a YouTube HIIT video or a decent walk. By making this a structured and conscious decision to do each day, I am seeing the benefits both physically and mentally.

3. Writing

Ah there it is, the actual thing I want to try and make a career out of. It might sound crazy, but it’s really easy to not write every day. I did it for months; I would say “I want to be a writer” but I was watching old episodes of Prison Break instead of being head down in my notebook or I was talking to friends about sharing my poetry online but trawling through other Instagram accounts instead. I was distracting myself from the task at hand. I now make sure that I write something every day; it could be as simple as a diary entry or a lengthier piece on a certain topic. I recently set up my own Instagram account for my poems and try to update; either by posting a new poem or creating a story – it’s all writing in some form and by doing this every single day, I get myself into a productive and fruitful routine.

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As a freelancer, and perhaps as a creative, it’s so easy to lose track of time and end up losing a day (or several) to certain moods or thoughts. I am learning, slowly, that structure is really important even for us. A structure, even in an abstract sense, of what my plan of action is for the day helps me carve a level of productivity that I know I should and can have, now I have leapt off of that ladder head first in to the freelance world. Whether it’s for crucial self-care or for a more practical financial benefit, it’s essential to introduce routine and productivity it to my daily life, even if it’s in small amounts.
Besides from downing that vinegar like clockwork on an empty stomach each morning, I am learning to set a pace for my daily routine. As a different kind of freelancer from my television career, I am taking the time to learn what works best for me; I will always have deadlines, but I set the pace. Is that not the perk of a freelancer? The structure, for me, is in making sure I am even doing these very simple things each day. My first steps as a new writer; it doesn’t matter if its exercise first and write later, or the other way around, but just to do these things regularly is benefiting me enormously and will help me to set out a routine that works best for me.

If nothing else, it will improve my mood, but more on that next time!

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