Back in March I wrote a post explaining my professional path and it seemed to strike a chord with many of you. I received quite a few emails from you lovely people sharing your own stories and words of encouragement. When I published that post, I was juuust starting to work on a more regular basis. We were settling into the new house, our son was in daycare and I finally had time to focus on work. In the last paragraph of the post I wrote “I still have days where I wonder what the f*ck I’m doing” and, 6 months later, I can confirm that I still feel that way. However, I’m no longer insecure about my unconventional career path. I believe that I’ve made the right decision and the only reason I can say that is because I’m giving it a real shot and – despite some bumps along the way – things seem to be heading in the right direction.
So what do you do exactly? I must get asked that question once a week. I used to get embarrassed when I would try to explain that “I blog and I write and I do some styling and I….” I felt like I had to offer an explanation that would make me sound like I have a plan and a purpose. I didn’t want people to think that I was all over the place or being irresponsible. Truth is, I was – and still am – all over the place. But that’s what I signed up for. And, luckily, we live in an age where you can be all over the place, as long as you are motivated, determined and ready to work hard. I remember sitting in my hair dresser’s chair last Winter and we were discussing this very topic. She and I both struggled with the fact that we seemed to go from one project to another, never really sticking with one gig for very long. When would we just figure out what it was that we were supposed to do for a living? She told me that she had recently met with a clairvoyant who had told her: “Your life’s purpose is to be unapologetically and unabashedly creative.” This is what Oprah would call an a-ha moment. Although the clairvoyant’s words were not aimed at me, I totally appropriated them and decided that this was my green light. (I should send her flowers)
Now when I’m asked what I do, I still have a tendency to ramble but I don’t feel the need to justify my choices. “I’m a creative hustler” or “I wear many hats” are the terms that I tend to use and they actually describe what I do pretty well. Some weeks I style photo shoots and write copy for marketing agencies. Other weeks I have design consultations and one-off collaborations with brands. (Note: there are also weeks where I’m just home with my son because he has a cold or something. They are the most glamorous). The thing about freelance work, particularly in this field (lifestyle? creative?) is that it’s very difficult to have one recognizable job title. I accept that every week is different and that money will be tight some months. I take on some free gigs because they inspire me and I accept others that are not all that exciting because they’ll pay the bills. I always try to focus on the bigger picture and to find a connecting thread between every opportunity. It’s funny to feel like you’re building something but you have absolutely no blueprint or any idea of what the end result might look like. There may never be an end result. But it really is about the journey, not the destination. At least that’s what I tell myself.
One of the aspects of freelancing that I struggle with the most is putting a value on myself – on my ideas. A potential contract came up a few months ago and the person who had approached me asked “how much will you charge for the client to have access to your brain.” Ummm. I had to put an amount, in dollars, for what I thought I was worth. When you’re someone who has always struggled with a case of Fraud Complex, that’s not an easy question to answer. A voice in the pit on your stomach tells you that the answer is “$10″ but your brain knows that what you should say is much higher.
Potential client: “Hi Marie-Eve, we’d like to hire you to do XYZ. Is this something you can do?”
Inside voice: “Nope. This is way out of my league and I have no experience doing this on my own. This could be catastrophic.”
Outside voice: “Absolutely. No problem.”
Believing in your brand is the key to freelancing. I’ve had to really work on that part of it. The more I take risks that render successful outcomes, the more I start to believe in that outside voice. Faking it ’til I’m making it all the way!
// I would love to hear your own stories regarding career paths and detours!