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How to NOT freelance

Updated: Feb 14, 2020

This week I got a lengthy and quite frankly unfair email terminating my employment at one of two jobs I have. I put so much energy in this job and we just recently had a showcase that I was proud of (I taught them the songs for the showcase). I will admit that I was a bit reserved on that day and I was suffering from a chest infection so I wasn’t being the most communicative employee. But with the unprofessionalism from this email, from that weekend and from the past 2 months - I should have seen this coming from a mile off. But it still hurt.

However you cannot control other people’s actions. That was one of the lessons I learnt last year which I explain on the podcast. So I wallowed for 24 hours, asked my friends for help (because these next few months are going to be tight) then I came to my computer to hold myself accountable. I’ve been freelancing for the past year and I have made some mistakes doing so. I thought it would be beneficial to outline what they were - maybe help someone who is looking to freelance or who has just started.

1. Don’t work by yourself - get a second opinion - on everything

So you have a funny feeling that your boss is exploiting you at work or you can’t get a read on a conversation. Ask a friend. Preferably someone in the same profession as you but it doesn’t entirely matter. A fresh pair of eyes is a must when you’re a freelancer. Especially when you’re new to your freelancing job. Sometimes you may act out of desperation (because bills do need to be paid) and suddenly find yourself in a less than favourable situation. This is my main flaw when it has come to freelancing. I always go for the shinier option even if I don’t have the full picture because at the time is seems like the right thing to do. However, what I should have done in most situations is ask someone what they think, and what my best options are. And sometimes you have to act in desperation but always try to make sure you’re covered, in case the unexpected where to happen.

2. Employers are not your friends, not matter how much they profess they are

It’s the nature of capitalism, the friendlier they “seem” the more they can reel you in to become the ‘best employee’. It’s upsetting because I think that friendliness at work is important but ultimately they are not your friends. If you start to believe this then you are liable to fall in the trap of being manipulated into taking more responsibility than you initially wanted to. Or this “friendship” status could be used against you when it’s beneficial for your employer. And when you start to protest if you’re being mistreated, then you have the added layer of navigating a faux-friendship. It’s better to just keep it professional and keep it moving.

3. Sign a contract. Know your rights.

This is what got me. Twice actually. A lot of the time, when contracts aren’t presented then it means linguistics are up in the air. It means that they can let you know (legally) last minute that you are no longer needed at work because there is no notice period. It’s exploitative to not have your employees sign contracts because it means that you can use them in whatever way you deem fit. I’ve learned my lesson and now I don’t approach any job without having sign (and read, thoroughly) a contract.

A lot of people might be shocked that people go into jobs without signing anything but like I previously highlighted, in times of desperation, it can be an afterthought. But if you don’t sign a contract, you still have rights. You can find them on the website (based in the UK).

4. Realise that sometimes it’s just not a good match, it’s not your fault.

I’m still in my feelings about being fired last minute and in the most unsavoury manner. But I know that I wasn’t the best fit at this job. I was the only Black girl employed there. Casual racist comments were made about the Eastern Asian community which is especially disappointing since we work with young children of different races and ethnicities. (This happened on the last day I was employed, I would have made a formal complaint then but it was already too late). I knew that this wasn’t my crowd. And that’s probably the real reason I was fired. They needed someone to represent their team regardless if I agreed to the finer print of what they qualify as a ‘team player’. And I wasn’t going to be a representative for what the ethos of what this company stood for and their practices. So it was best for both parties that we parted ways.

5. That being said, don’t put up with bullshit - from anyone.

Another mistake I made. And I guess this applies to people just in employment in general but I think it’s more detrimental for freelancers. Because employers have a reputation for underpaying and not treating their freelance employees with respect. And I also know that people don’t treat Black women and non-binary individuals with an ounce of respect compared to their white freelance employees. It does depend on the environment but in the industry that I work in - this tends to be the case. So from the get go, if you suspect something is off, put it in writing and bring it up as soon as possible. It might seem like a lot to do but it saves your back. Make complaints to their superiors, take it as a far as you need to. It is honestly the best decision you can make. Make your boundaries clear from the start and stick with them.

And I hate to the be the bearer of bad news but things like this happen. It’s not uncommon to be fired from a job. You never think that something can happen to you but it can. I luckily had some emergency chocolate and I hadn’t finished the Netflix series ‘Dirty John’. Before that I called my mum and just screamed for about an hour. Make sure you have a strong support system (I will get into how this is harder for working class people in another article), but just try and keep going. One day at a time. Freelancing is hard and you’re going to make mistakes along the way. Do the best you can. And comment leaving your tips on freelancing. Correct me. Maybe you could help someone out too!

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