The Lonely Freelancer

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(Photo: Ilfracombe, taken by me!)

I was in Devon a couple of weeks ago to relax, unwind and eat my own bodyweight in fish, and it was a really nice relaxing holiday. I did have a few day trips, but mostly I spent a lot of time walking on my own and thinking.

Thinking can be a dangerous activity for someone who works for themselves. We either cook up new hare-brained schemes that will never see the light of day or we start self-analysing and wondering about things.

I definitely did the latter on this holiday, and came to a realisation that even though I have got support on my freelance journey, I am actually quite on my own – never mind Lonely Planet, I’m the Lonely Freelancer.

I don’t have that many good friends that work for themselves. They’re all employed by companies, or those that do freelance work in different industries to me and don’t really understand some of the issues I face. For general advice they’re great (and I’ve learned so much from them), but for industry specific issues I’ve only got about two people I can ask, so that’s a very limited pool of advice.

My family does try to help, but their visions of how I ought to be running my business vary wildly from how I actually am running it. I get a lot of well-meaning but ultimately not-that-useful advice from my nearest and dearest – they have ideas, and some have been useful in part (but again, general advice about filing and stuff) but most are in the category of ‘stuff they think I ought to do because they think it would be nice but they don’t get it’.

And that’s the other thing. They don’t get it, and then they get offended when I say no to an idea they’ve given me, or if I decline their help. ‘I’ve got this’ means nothing, because obviously I don’t ‘got this’ because I’m not doing it their way, which is clearly better.

This does happen to me, more often than I’d like.

Because of this lack of knowledge of those close to me, I’m trying to build a bigger network. Networking is its own minefield, and I’ve not had that great experiences at industry-specific events, but the general networking groups are a bit too non-specific for me. I have lucked out with one I go to (the photographer I worked on the goth shoot with goes to it, so it’s cool to see him every two weeks and talk creativity) but I don’t go to any other ones – I either can’t afford it or they’re not the kind of people I want to associate with. The women-only groups would be great for me to go to, but they’re either full of people who get genuinely scared when someone says they’re a stylist (‘Oh no, you must think I’m dressed so badly!’ erm, no?), or full of the kind of women who think that if you aren’t a healthy clean living fitness freak supermum who has it all, you’re not worth talking to. I noped out of that one pretty quick.

So, really, I need to go to industry-specific events, but that’s even more of a minefield, and I find it a bit scary, to be honest.

There is so much… I guess it’s ‘fakery’ that goes on at fashion networking events. I’ve never got anything out of events with people who are so self-absorbed they can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to work with them – they come across as ridiculously arrogant and I know from experience that kind of person is impossible to work with. I’m struggling to find fashion industry events that aren’t full of wannabe Instagram stars and that are full of actual human beings that I’d want to work with. Maybe I’m being too picky but equally I don’t want to work with people who don’t vibe the same as I do.

I know I need to do more networking, both online and in person. Having a chronic illness and a useless local train operator sometimes makes getting to events a little difficult, which frustrates me – I’m less than 30 minutes from London but often the events start very late, and chronic fatigue is a sod. Plus hello South Western, you are even worse than South West Trains for problems with your services. But that’s a whole ‘nother post.

So this lonely freelancer needs to be brave and spread her wings with her networking – do any of you UK-based readers of mine that are in fashion have any ideas for non-crappy fashion industry events that I could go to? I do sometimes feel like I’m flailing madly in freefall with these things!

1 Comment

  1. I’m not in the same industry as you, but I just wanted to say I know what you mean. The only things I’ve found local to me start ridiculously early and now I focus mainly on online events. They have generated a few customers, but really it’s more about being with other people who have the same issues or questions. I’m lucky because my partner does help when it comes to bouncing around ideas, but when I want specifics about things that only self-employed people have to do, it’s good if you can find people who have already been there and can offer suggestions. Hope you find some people and events that you will enjoy, whether on- or offline.

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