When you work freelance, you’re going to have to handle the creative and business end of your project. You need to keep track of your finances, get the clients, build the audience and, at the same time, produce the work that will define your career. It’s a near-impossible task. You’re going to need a silent partner.
When I say silent partner, I don’t mean a patron or assistant. You need someone who will be there to push you to do your best, someone who will keep you going when all you want to do is quit. Pick someone who is close to you– a significant other, family member or close friend– someone who knows your faults and someone who won’t actually be silent. For me, that person is my boyfriend, Carlos.
Carlos and I started dating our senior year of college. Before that, we were friends and co-workers at our university’s radio station. He doesn’t just know me as a person, he knows my work habits firsthand, so he’s a great person to have as my silent partner. He knows how caught up I will get in a project and he’s there to remind me to sleep, brush my hair and change into something other than yoga pants and a Depeche Mode t-shirt.
A good silent partner will always have your back, but can also give you completely honest opinions about your work. Carlos is my toughest critic. He’ll tell me when my stories aren’t up to par, but he’s also careful enough to point out how I can fix it. When I’m working on a project that doesn’t have an editor, I give him the job because I know he’ll handle the task thoroughly. He was a huge help on the first chapter I wrote for Animal Sounds and is equally helpful on the second chapter that I’m, unfortunately, still writing.
The best partners will push you to apply for gigs even when you think you’re hopelessly unqualified. Mine did and I actually got it. They’ll also tell you what you’re doing wrong when you’re throwing your hands in the air ready to give up on your dream. This is important. Chances are there’s always something you can do better and you will be the last person to notice this.
There’s a trade-off here. You have to actually listen to your silent partner. This hasn’t been one of my strengths, but I’m getting better about it now. Oftentimes, I’ve shrugged off Carlos’ advice because, well, he’s not me. But, that’s exactly why his advice tends to be better. He’s one half-step removed from the situation. He hasn’t been staring at the computer screen for so long that letters are crossing. Your partner is going to have the fresh perspective that you won’t have when you’re in the midst of a project.
Maybe there are some people who can freelance completely solo, but they are probably superhuman. We all need help. Don’t be afraid to ask for it.