Freelance longevity isn’t a given. Some of us go back to traditional employment for the consistency of pay. Some of us decide that we need to stretch in a different direction. But for those of us that take to freelancing like a happy duck to lovely waters, freelance longevity can still be a tough biscuit to crack.
Usually because we forget about the freedom, the play time and the softer advantages of the journey.
Having freelanced now for 9 years full time and much longer than that on the side, I believe in the power of creative play to keep freelancers energised.
Let’s look at why it’s important to make a case for play and experimentation if you want to enjoy freelance longevity
Remembering where you came from
While the reasons we choose the freelance life can be many and varied, we aren’t your usual carbon cut people. A lot of freelancers choose the life because at your core, you are creative. You are looking to take your connection to creative arts and your creative thinking and combine them as a means of employment.
Add the do what you love culture to the mix, and we become far more intrigued by pursuing this side of ourselves than we may have been previously.
When you turn your beloved creativity into a means of employment, it can make for a tough transition. You have to allow for client feedback. You may not find the time for creating the work you want to anymore. Plus, it becomes tied to chasing late payment and all sorts of not so fun memories.
By taking the time to go back to your creative roots with side projects and dedicated play, you can stay connected with that beating heart of creativity. It’s the place where you don’t have to share the work if you don’t want to and you remain in charge of calling the shots.
You learn by doing
We all have to upskill and experiment to stay in the freelance game long term. One of the best ways to enjoy freelance longevity is to keep that learning happening.
However, we may not want to risk our work for clients by using it to learn and experiment.
That’s where having play time helps.
You don’t have to worry about taking a risk with the freelance jobs you complete. You can also fail as you go without pressure from timelines, clients and your own exacting standards.
By giving yourself the time to play, you essentially take the pressure off.
It restores freedom
Freedom is choosing your destiny. Having a moment when you are so connected with everything around you, you feel like the whole world is your oyster. It’s free from obligation, restriction and it gives us the opportunity to experiment on our own terms.
We have that daily. Yet we distract ourselves with other things.
OK sure- the kids need this, and the clients need that. But you have needs also.
Boundaries come in all shapes and sizes. But play is one area we’re we are obligation free.
If you don’t play, explore and spend quality time with your chosen form of self-employment, it becomes just another job. The freedom is lacking because that moment of watching the kids play footy, writing the burning blog, perfecting that design skill or attending the seminar to spark your brain becomes the last thing on the list.
Play underpins these things. Stop trading them for the opportunity to tame inboxes, crow about being busy and be something you are not. Have the mess and indulge the play instead. You’ll feel better for it.
Play creates imagination
Psychologically, we perform better when we have the opportunity to play. We enter this wonderful world called ‘the flow’, where we receive the right amount of stimulation and challenge. When our brain is energised, it’s better at making creative links with information. It also means we have a greater ability to apply creative thinking models, solve problems and work our way around blockages.
When you have a happy, entertained brain, it lets go of stress. It’s focused on the moment it’s in. This is mindfulness in its purest form as it grounds us. We’re centred on the task at hand, not worried about past or fretting about future.
Enjoying that moment where time whizzes by without obligation, when the work is its own reward, and we’re centred in the now is incredibly helpful. Especially when considering the stress freelancers are under.
We’re always future focused. We’re looking at the next job, chasing up the payment, making sure we learn the next great thing, planning our marketing and other activities, anticipating the client’s feedback, worrying about how our products will be received – everything is about what happens next.
Over time, this can become wearing on our poor old brains. Sometimes, it’s nice to leave the future to itself and come spend some quality time in the now. Play allows us to do that. It allows us to get perspective and nurture our creativity.
Play helps your stay
Freelance longevity has an emotional side effect- it can either make you feel in command and content OR it can make you feel drawn, trapped and concerned.
I believe a major contributor to where we land comes down to how much time we allow ourselves to play. Not only with our creativity, but in life. We need the sport, the fun times, the belly laugh, the connection with friends and family, the opportunity to change the scenery- all of it adds up to play time.
Once we stop playing, once we no longer allow ourselves the ability to take advantage of the good side of self-employment, we fail. We fail to play but more importantly, we fail to remain true to the reason we began this journey in the first place.
After all, what’s the point of having this so-called freedom of self-employment if it turns to drudgery?