• Jenny Stallard

When the freelance road seems closed...

I see this sign on one of my daily walks and it kept 'speaking' to me - it might sound cheesy but it's so pertinent right now - it has been all through lockdown and even as things begin to lift, the freelance road is often a tricky one to travel.

The freelance road does seem rather closed! Some have lost clients, contracts.. hope. Right?

Thing is, in real life, people keep dodging round this sign and the roadworks it's protecting, on bikes and scooters and even one car (!). It made me start thinking about what we do when the road is closed - or seems closed.

I’ve felt like that a lot over the past few months. Roads are closed to freelancers for work opportunities, as businesses have suffered and cut freelance contributions. Roads have been closed for me as publications shut down their commissioning budget, and the contracts I might usually rely on are fewer and further between. It's been challenging, and I've had to do a few freelance three point turns!

It often feels like there's a big 'road closed' sign as I email people, work on ideas and wonder 'what next?' for my freelance business. I have plans and goals and I'm working on them, but not being able to see freelance 'colleagues' is hard. Usually I'd go to events and swap business cards, hoping to find contacts and build my network and brand.

The road can seem closed but I guess it’s up to us to find that alternative or our way around the road block. We can follow the diversion - maybe someone offers us work we weren’t expecting - or we have to just keep hoping the signs come back to the road we wanted to travel.

Or we can create our own new road - looking for work we might not normally do, making new projects or trying out ones we’d put aside like a new blog or even career path.

As a journalist the road is often strewn with closed signs and diversions! I’ve become more and more adept at navigating the potholes and one way or no entry signs. I’ve become more adept at following the diversions and trusting they'll lead somewhere positive. It'll never get easier, I'm sure of that - some of us love the challenge, I guess! Or the challenge outweighs the 'real job' lure.

And I've actually signed up to a webinar this afternoon on dealing with the 'feast and famine' of freelance life.

Lately, I've been reduced to tears after comparing myself with others on social media, but I know deep down I need to accept other people will have more success than me sometimes! It can just smart when you see someone get that gig you were after, win that dream award, or work with a brand you'd like to work with. When the frustration dies down I try to use it as a way of spurring me on to keep hustling - or badgering, as my friend Mel and I call it.

When the road seems closed, the answer is often turning back - there might be another road you walked past before the sign that is the right one. Or you need to wait until the road is clear again. That's what I'm doing a bit of now - plotting and planning while we're in limbo, so I can hopefully have more of a plan for when things lift again.

Do you feel like the freelance road is closed? Maybe you've had some good signs lately, or a good map handed to you in the form of a new client, or building a new business venture. Maybe you ignored the sign and went ahead anyway, bravely navigating the closed road and seeing what was round the corner.

I think there'll always be moments we feel the freelance road ahead is closed. And it's ok for it to be so frustrating we feel like giving up. But sometimes a closed road can lead us down a better path, if that's not too cheesy. I hope that's the case for anyone who has seen a closed sign lately in their freelance life.

For daily updates from Freelance Feels (often pictures of signs and dogs I meet as well as reposts from accounts focusing on self employment and mental health), do come and join me on Instagram, and for my monthly newsletter, sign up here. If you fancy a listen to some other freelancers, then the Freelance Feels podcast is on Spotify and Apple podcasts.

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