January 21

Freelance love: You need it

friendsFriends in high places? Who needs ‘em! I’d rather have friends in low places who love me. Because when you spend every weekday alone, you can go a bit cray-cray. You need a friend willing to kick you in the ass, hold your hand, or wipe the spittle off your chin.

The ability to withstand the isolation – it’s the thing about freelancing that separates the big kids from the freelancers in pull ups. Most of the time you don’t notice the lack of actual human company. But when you’re not flying by the seat of your skinny jeans and that lull turns into a dry spell, loneliness can creep in. With no one to talk to, your thoughts and feelings get bottled up until some poor sod asks you how your day is and Bam! You spew nonsensically for a week.

The gift of gab

This is where your Freelancer Friend comes in. You write her/him long dramatic emails about how an agency ghoul swooped in and stole your work or how your biggest client is honeymooning with flashy new talent. You vent and whine. Your Freelancer Friend talks you off the ledge and you make plans to sip fancy coffees.

But most of the time, you just chat. You blather on about your parents and your kids and that embarrassing incident at the drive thru. It’s the daily catharsis of gab that regular people get around the mythical water cooler, and something you miss out on if you don’t have friends who know the crap you put up with.

Good work karma

Sometimes jobs morph into project management or editing gigs and it’s my responsibility to hire freelancers. Or I have too much work on my plate and I have to subcontract. Or clients ask me to recommend freelancers for jobs I can’t do.

For all of the above, I go to my friends first. Not just because I like them, but because I think they’re good and I trust them. My friends have done all of those things for me. (Thank you, Freelancer Friends. I love you!)

But whether it comes back in your direction or not is irrelevant. It’s much more important to have someone to talk to. The work is gravy.

Love hurts, I know

Speaking of trust… A century ago, I recommended a good friend for a freelance design gig at a huge communications firm. We worked together joyously for two years, then she and her husband opened an agency. They wooed my client for the project we were working on and won – meaning that now I had to report to my friend. She took me for coffee and explained that we could no longer be friends because she was my boss. I was belligerent. She fired me.

On very rare occasions you meet someone whose natural survival instinct is out of whack – someone who would throw you under the bus for a minor professional victory. It can make a friend behave in a very unfriendly way, so be careful to whom you introduce your clients.

Unfriended – it happens

You’re getting regular calls from a client who thinks the sun shines out your astute observations, when suddenly his bestie is between gigs. Poof! There goes the work and you never hear from him again. It sucks, but you know you’d probably do the same thing in his position.

Freelancing makes for fickle relationships. The freedom that so benefits you also benefits those who hire you, and that’s very apparent when friendships are involved.

Where to find freelance love?

You’ll meet people like you at on-site jobs or through professional organizations. (Hell, it won’t hurt you to have a shower and get out of the house!) I’ve met most of my Freelancer Friends on projects that required more than one freelancer. Some are past clients and coworkers.

Most often it’s an organic process, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. When you meet someone who gets your crazy jokes, it’s worth it. Say something generous and see what happens.

So nourishing

Good, genuine friends are part of a balanced freelance diet. But like anything, you have to work at them to maintain them. Keep in touch. Go for beer. Ask about the spouse/cat/nasty rash. And don’t do it because you think they might make good contacts – that kind of motivation has a stink that will leave you lonely! – do it because you like them. And because friendship will make you a happier human.