A Mini-Freelance Epidemic?

Joe Wallace Turntabling Rare RecordsA lot of freelancers I know are having a bit of an identity crisis at the moment. Some of them wouldn’t describe it quite like that, but I find it very interesting that some of the best ones I know are branching out into new territory, taking chances on new types of work, and generally mutating themselves into something rather different than what they started off to become.

One freelancer made the jump into racy fiction–a big switch from the comparatively dry, totally fact-based work she had been doing prior to adding a bit of steaminess to her repertoire. Another freelancer I know has taken up painting. And then there’s my own turn as a vinyl seller, DJ, and multi-media junkie. Is this an identity crisis, or simply diversifying?

For me, it was a bit of both in the beginning. Success in one area doesn’t necessarily come at the expense of success in another. But when I started, I wasn’t sure about that. How much time could I dedicate to my new income selling highly collectible vinyl records and DJing and still maintain my freelance writing and editing work? Turns out both work together just fine–it’s just a question of time management.

Others I know have put in enough time in one type of freelance trench and are ready to explore different options–they want to keep their hand on the till, so to speak, but move out of the heavy lifting part of freelancing into a more managerial role. And who can blame any of them for that? Writing isn’t easy work in spite of what our office-bound friends might think. Neither is editing. Or PR, photography, musicianship, etc. It’s WORK. Even when it’s fun.

But if you’re thinking about diversifying, chances are good that you’ve done one or two things in your head that have brought you to this point. Or maybe it’s safer to say that I have done this. Either way, have you caught yourself saying to yourself:

1. You don’t know how you can keep up the pace/lack of pace that your current work offers;

2. Your income is wonderful–when it’s actually there;

3. Your income is wonderfully consistent and plentiful, but you’re spending far too much time on projects for other people and not enough on your own;

4. Your work is great, yet not quite as satisfying as you’d like it to be;

5. Your freelance career has taken off, but headed into a direction you’d rather not be moving toward.

In my own case, I’ve had all five of those at various times in the last seven years. The real question I felt all these statements leading up to? What’s next? What choices do I have to make to answer these concerns? It’s not easy, and no blog post can answer that for you–but I find being aware that the “identity crisis” is happening is a good start toward resolving it. Recognizing the internal tug-of-war over these issues helps. You’re NOT going crazy, you’re not a flake for wanting to try new things. Most importantly of all, doubt is GOOD.

The supremely self-confident person can easily become the self-delusional dork with a misstep or two. Doubt keeps you honest, and sometimes leads you to take a few chances you might not have otherwise attempted. The key is–at least for me–to take a few calculated risks at first and see how things play out before making a full-blown commitment. One of the most important rules in marketing is to do market research before you try to launch a new venture. That sort of thinking can also apply to your freelance identity crisis if you’re having one. Give it a shot–whatever IT is–on a part-time basis and see how it feels.

Joe Wallace has been many things in his long and winding career. His first unsupervised job was as a janitor. He later ditched that for a job in radio, and eventually wrote his way into all sorts of fun, money, and trouble from Texas to Iceland. Today he’s head mischief maker at Turntabling.net, and blogs/writes/edits/DJs for fun and profit in Chicago.