Towards the end of last year, my computer died started randomly dying. It would suddenly turn off entirely, losing whatever I had been working on. I could no longer rely on it to get things done. I would lose hours of work, with autosaving features failing to work properly.
Even without being another freelancer, you know the stress of something that you’re relying upon suddenly dying on you. When it is everything you need to be able to make money, it is cripplingly terrifying. I spent days trying to fix it, to troubleshoot the problems. I wiped the computer back to factory settings, but nothing would work. These were days spent not making money, but it was work that had to be done. Frustrated and unable to deal with the problem, I took it to a professional and paid money to learn that “this problem can’t be fixed.”
I was lucky enough to have people ready to help me out, to ensure that I could get a new laptop and keep working. Not everyone is going to have that, and it represents one of the biggest challenges of being a freelancer: you’re responsible for being the first line of defense on everything that comes your way. Billing, accounting, payables, it is all on you.
You have such a thin safety net. If you haven’t built anything to help you soak any problems, it cuts into the meat of you. Every piece of the armour you’ve built is on you. It is so easy to have multiple things hit you at once, stripping away everything that you’ve built up. One of the most common suggestions that I’ve heard is to try to have six months of expenses built up.
We don’t always get to make that decision for ourselves. The current employment market has other ideas, and if you lose out on that backlog of protection, there are big questions about what you do next.
So often we don’t get to choose when to start things, or when things happen to use. Freelancers are a lot like sailors: we control the seas, but we can adjust our sails. Our lives are a tension back and forth of things we can control fighting with things that we can’t. That’s the way of the freelancer, and another thing you have to consider.
The sad reality is that, as you’re struggling along, you’re going to be getting favours instead of money sometimes. You need to be willing to call those in sometimes, to trade goodwill for something that you need. Maybe it is repairing something in your house, maybe it is just a meal when times are tough. Adjust the sails, keep sailing.