Be prepared to get what you wish for
I was chatting online today with site contributor Anthony, and I was reminded of that double-edged sword all freelancers swing at one time or another. “I want the work” and “I’ve got the work”. Sounds like a no-brainer, but not so fast. You DO want the work, yes. And it’s good news when you get it, but when you’re neck deep and you’d rather be out with your friends at the local wing joint with no end in sight, you’ll have to remind yourself…
You asked for it.
Whether in the pursuit of that full-time “dream job” or just feet on the street freelance projects, it’s really important to start thinking about what you really want. Design work? Studio work? Illustration? Photo manipulation? Web design? Concept development? Shoe shining? Whatever it might be, it’s a good practice to imagine yourself actually doing it, 8 hours a day. But, you have to add the other layers to that fantasy – doing it for a client who may not share your creative vision, tight deadlines, brands you don’t identify with, for or with other people, or alone for that matter as a freelancer. In other words, are you in love with the practice, or the fantasy of how you imagine it will be. Granted, it’s a bit hard to imagine a scenario you’ve yet to experience, but you can let your mind wander the front yard a little, at least. The goal is to really lock in to what you want from the work you seek. Because, there are few things worse than… the “bonk”.
The “bonk” is a term used in endurance sports to describe that moment when, because you didn’t properly prepare for an event, your system just shuts down, leaving you panting on the road-side, with 4 miles still ahead of you. It’s a terrible feeling. You’re on a noon deadline, and it’s 3am, but you’ve still got 9 hours to go before the clock runs out. Your client’s at home in bed, sleeping, and all you want to do is shut off the music you’re blaring in your headphones keeping you awake, save your files and call it a night. But, there’s 11 hours work to get done in those 9 hours. And it has to get done. And it has to be good. And you can’t make any mistakes. You have to be able the live with that every now and again, as well as the fun meetings with cool people on great projects. It’s a mixture.
The bottom line – strap in, get your game face on and create. Be a passionate creative pro. But, also, be a well balanced person. Prepare for the hard projects. The tough clients. The bad reviews. The long nights. The painful meetings. It’s all part of being the professional equivalent of a little kid with crayons, blank paper and a whole day to kill. It’s an amazing career, and the highlights will bring you joy, and satisfaction. When you nail that brief with a bulls-eye concept, design and execution… there’s no reward quite like that feeling you get when everyone in the room looks at you with that face, and says, “Dude… This is sick!” You look back, contain your excitement and play it cool. “Thanks” as you lean back in your chair. Your feet won’t touch the ground for the rest of the day. The cost of that feeling, however, might be that long night when you start to bonk around 3am. Embrace it, and choose the work you really love. That will sustain you.