Being Freelance - it IS quite brave isn't it?!
I don’t often give myself time, to stop and think about my career and the wobbly, fragile yet oh so exciting paths it has taken me down.
Maybe this is due to motherhood consuming most of my brain? Maybe it's because I am so confident in the way the universe works and mostly leave my freelance opportunities up to fate?
Or maybe this is because as a freelance artist/ creative, I never stop searching for the next opportunity?
In all honesty it's a 'mish-mash' of all 3- depending on my mood, the workings of the moon (yes, really) and where I want to focus my energy.
How it started...
Rewind a few years with me? I left a secure full time job in a North East school.
It was all the things you are told to look for in employment - enjoyable, regular, predictable and safe.
But here's the thing; I always felt slightly on edge.
Deep down I knew I wanted to control where to focus my creativity. I wanted to be my own boss. So, I made the decision and left.
As I left, the head teacher of the school said to me
"I’d love to be brave enough to be a freelancer, but I think I need the security, I don’t know if I could cope with not knowing where my next job would be coming from"
And that has always stuck with me. It is quite brave, isn’t it?
How it's going...
As I've continued with my career I’ve found that if you can find ‘your people’ then the arts and cultural sector is extremely supportive place to be.
I'm at the stage now in my career where I don’t apply for new jobs on a weekly or monthly basis. Perhaps now only a few times a year- and only if they really spark my interest and ignite something in me. And that is (I recognise) a really nice and privileged place to be!
It wasn’t always like this as a new, younger freelancer, of course.
My thanks to my 'supporters'; the same mentors and cheerleaders who have kept me feeling secure and held in the web of work I now feel more 'safe' than 'brave'.
Don’t get me wrong, you have to work really hard with and for ‘your people’ to prove you are the right person for that job, and the next and the next.
But to me, it’s worth it… and leaves you the brain capacity to get creative with your own ideas and explore who you really are as an artist.
Growing even more confidence
As a writer (and sometimes theatre facilitator) I now feel more confident to create my own opportunities.
I will now see funding opportunities as things I CAN DO rather than things I wish I could.
I see my ideas, plays, projects as good enough and often throw them in the face of organisations I trust without the fear of rejection or failure, just because- why not?!
Through working with so many inspirational organisations and people, I have gained the skills and confidence to manage my own ideas, take charge , ask for help off people I admire, and be a little bit gutsy with opportunity seeking (like publishing my own children’s book in the middle of a pandemic!).
One last thing...
Oh, and one final trick that helps me feel secure and reflects my expertise back to me time and time again, is having one 'comfortable' job with a long contract as my "old faithful". Most of my other contracts are short (few months/ some at longest a year) so it's brilliant to have a job which requires consistent input and energy.
I have taught a young writers group for over 6 years now. I do this on a weekly basis and I LOVE it. Not only is it soothing to have the regular money, it really helps my anxious brain.
On the more difficult freelancer months when jobs or money aren’t flowing as well as they have done before, I am even more grateful for this gig. I know all isn’t lost. I am still doing something I love, there is still a stream of money coming in and I don’t go into full fright or flight mode. I fight!
As freelancers, as cheesy as it might sound, that’s what we are, fighters. We fight to stay in the career that lights us up and fuels our passions as it's our deep held belief we want to influence and encourage others to do the same.
About the author - Danielle Slade is a pregnant mum to a toddler. She is based in Cramlington, Northumberland and has been freelance since 2013 and works for larger arts organisations like Mortal Fools, New Writing North and Live theatre and also enjoys being commissioned to write her own work
You can follow Danielle on instagram here and join our next online event for free to hear more of her insight including how she wrote and sold 500 copies of a children's book by self publishing during the pandemic.