Working as a freelancer means inhabiting a strange world of paradoxes:
We must be solid and grounded in our professional self-sufficiency but fluid in responding to our clients’ needs.
We must strive for stability but embrace the inevitability of change – both self-imposed and thrust upon us.
We must invest in building and refining our skillset even when we’re wondering where our next paying job will come from.
We must maintain scrupulous standards of professional accountability to our clients and suppliers even as we become lifelong friends with some of those same people.
We must work in competition with our fellow freelancers while nurturing each other and our joint community for the good of us all.
We must be experts without ever forgetting how little we know.
We must connect in our isolation.
In short, we must be flexible and adaptable. Always, onwards, adapting.
To an extent, this is an existential drive, almost evolutionary. If we don’t change as the world changes, if we are not ready to overcome threats to the very survival of our businesses, we cease to exist professionally.
So, when a huge shock hits, we may worry about how we will survive, but in a sense we are already surviving. We might have to shift our trajectory, but we are already in motion.
To return to our paradoxes, when crisis happens:
We shore up our self-sufficiency, bracing for financial and professional shocks, while testing out new pools in which to exercise our fluidity. The pools might be more perilous than we’d ideally like, but we can handle this because we’ve done it all before, on different scales, at other times, in other pools.
We gather around us all the things we find essential – all the things that make us feel stable – but at the same time we purposefully go out of our comfort zone to find new opportunities and positive currents of change.
We continue to invest what we can (even if it’s only time) in broadening our skills even as we may face some of the biggest financial challenges of our careers.
We continue to hold ourselves accountable to our clients and suppliers on the hard, practical side of business (deadlines, fees and so on) so that they in turn can deliver on their promises to others, but we remain ready to be human and kind when our clients are struggling.
We continue to ethically assert our right to further our business success while redoubling our efforts to give a helping hand to our colleague-competitors.
We seek out new ways to put our hard-earned expertise to use while acknowledging that there may now be even more areas where our knowledge is lacking – more questions to which we don’t yet know the answers.
We are creative in finding more ways to connect in our heightened isolation, offering support and help to others at a distance.
In this new world, we are already surviving.