What the… freelance!
After almost 20 years of working in a newsroom as a sub-editor, lifestyle writer, night editor and online editor, SAFREA chair Meneesha Govender had done a range of exciting jobs. But it just wasn’t enough, she writes.
I realised I’d hit the glass ceiling and atrophy was slowly creeping into my body and mind like a snake in the dark.
A combination of events gave me the necessary kick in the rear to take charge of my career and make a change. I needed a new challenge. I needed to wake up in the mornings with a sense of purpose. Being an automaton was just not in my DNA!
But first I needed a time out – time to recharge the batteries, time to do a bit of upskilling, time to network and create a space I could work from. And this was all great – I loved learning new things, loved waking at any time I saw fit. I mean how difficult could this life as an independent contractor be, right?
The grand delusion was a structured work day, complete with time for morning yoga and self-reflection, eating healthily, endless creativity as well as loads of fabulous clients.
Instead, I found myself binging on Netflix (I motored through all five seasons of How to Get Away with Murder and every season of Game of Thrones in a marathon two months! How’s that for commitment and perseverance!).
I justified my endless hours of social media obsession as important research for my new role. Sleeping in was okay because I’d work on Sunday… after an important 'meeting' over lunch with a friend, who could put me in touch with a client who may be able to pay me in a month or six.
All that fluff
I met the few deadlines I had – because, truth be told, there were so few of them, and because I am actually pretty competent. But a typical work week consisted of only half the hours I’d planned on and the rest was just 'fluff' – things I did to convince myself I was having a productive day, that this big leap of faith I’d taken was totally the right thing to do.
Then there was the constant guilt I felt if my Toggl* report dropped in my mailbox and didn’t reflect at least 40 hours of work in the week. I’m not being productive... I’m failing... Oh, the self-flagellation that ensued!
Luckily, a supportive partner and a sizable savings got me through the first few months. But as Day Zero on my bank account crept closer, panic set in.
Had I quit my respectable, consistently-paying job for this? What the heck was I thinking? I crawled under the covers, weeping like a baby and calling on the gods to just end my misery and take care of my family… this isn’t their fault. Yes, I wore martyrdom well.
This, my friends, is real life. This is playing in the big league. This is what small fish in a big pond really means. And it’s a rite of passage.
I’m in recovery now. The euphoria and novelty of being my own boss has worn off. The grafting has truly begun. And I’m learning every day that part of the 'free' in freelancing means I must free my mind of the shackles of expectation.
I’ve come to accept that while Toggl* recorded 35 hours of work last week, it will definitely confirm over 50 this week. It’s the nature of the beast. Quality, not quantity… I keep reminding myself.
I’m learning that when every hour is a billable one, binge-watching an entire season of a TV series suddenly takes on a whole new meaning.
Away with the smoke and mirrors. This martyr is rising. She’s shed her victimhood. She eschews a sainthood. She’s rewriting her script. So watch this space!
*Toggl is a nifty tool that allows me to track the number of hours I spend working… or doing nothing.
About the author
SAFREA chair, Meneesha Govender, loves the world of online communication. She specialises in content creation, web design and social media strategy. She also writes a blog. To find out more about Meneesha and to get in touch, please visit her website and connect with her on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.