There’s one thing I absolutely love and hate about my life as a freelancer.
It’s the unpredictability of it.
To me, predictable is boring. It’s eating fish every Friday. Going to the car wash on Saturday, and spending every stinkin’ summer at the same overpriced rental on the Jersey shore.
Predictable is no fun. It’s playing it safe, doing what you’ve always done.
On the other hand, a predictable life means stability. No guessing what happens next. You always know what’s coming.
Most people love the familiarity of the seasons and the holidays. Times like Easter and Christmas serve as markers of time passing. As soon as it’s fall, pumpkin spice is wafting in the air, and retailers rush to get their Halloween collection out on the floor.
Being able to count on things is rather reassuring. Uncertainty stresses people out.
As someone who has always been self-employed, I have learned to live with and appreciate unpredictability. Right now, I don’t know what voice over project will land on my desk tomorrow. I have no idea if the client I spoke with yesterday, will like the audition I sent out today. And please don’t tell me what I’ll be working on next week.
If you’re a pathological planner craving closure, you’re not going to like that very much. You’ve got to have the right personality to handle being an independent contractor. To explain what that means, I often turn to culinary and musical metaphors.
You see, there are two types of cooks. The first type needs to follow the recipe to the letter. It has to be done the way the author intended. Doing otherwise would be sacrilege.
The second type of cook grabs a couple of ingredients depending on what’s in season, and starts creating a dish from scratch. No book needed. You make it up as you go along.
The musician who likes predictability always plays from the score, and measures his or her performance by how accurately the notes were replicated.
The musician who embraces unpredictability is more like a jazzer. Improvisation is the name of the game. Making things up on the fly.
Mind you: neither is right or wrong. There is a time and a place for organization and planning, and we all need to let loose a little. It can’t be all work and no play.
But as much as we try to be in control of our lives (and that’s the key concept: control), life has this strange way of throwing monkey wrenches in the works, just to test our flexibility and creativity.
After almost forty years of being a freelancer, I have learned to trust one thing, and it has become my mantra:
Things will always work out (but often not the way you expect they will).
Remember that time you were rejected for a project you so wanted to work on? You felt angry and inadequate, in part because the decision was made for you. Not by you.
But you also need to remember what happened next. Thanks to that one project going to another talent, you were able to take on a different job that eventually opened the door to an amazing opportunity. Something you could not have predicted.
Years ago, my wife went on Yahoo Personals looking for a skiing partner to go down the slopes with.
She ended up with this Dutchman (who could not ski if his life depended on it), and on October 4th we’ll be married for sixteen years!
And as she will gladly attest, no day with me is ever predictable. She, on the other hand, is my stability. She’s the rock in my roll.
Listen, if you’re a fellow freelancer, I hope you’re enjoying the variety of work that comes your way. I hope you enjoy being off schedule with the rest of the world, giving you the freedom to do things those with a 9 to 5 job can only dream of.
I also hope you have found a way to deal with the financial instability, and the constant search for the next big project. If you’ve been at it for a while, you know that when it rains, it pours. And sometimes it just rains.
But throughout this unpredictable existence, know that there is this one constant you can always count on.
That constant, that certainty, is YOU.
Unpredictable, out-of-the box thinking, creative, flexible, optimistic, multitalented YOU!