Facing Yourself: Learning to Freelance as an Agreeable Person
Sure, why not? Yes, I can do that for you. Whatever you need.
Please like me. I need you.
I first became cognizant of my agreeable nature in a rather atypical interpersonal communication course in undergrad.
The professor, a California surfer who occasionally went by Rocket and felt no shame in the fact that it took him seven years to complete a bachelor’s degree, brought to light the fact that I may have been a member of the agreeable bunch. And the group therapy members that he called students seemed to nod their heads to the sentiment. Naturally, after being exposed to this insight about myself, I agreed.
While holding on for a ride that others have prescribed is not always a negative, I have learned that—more often than not—allowing others to craft expectations for and of you often leads to disappointment and unhappiness. Only recently have I stretched my fierceness enough to make pretty hefty decisions for myself, without wavering to the wants of spectators.
How I Ended Up Bossless
That tingle down the spine, the butterflies in the stomach that come with being told, "a job well done, kiddo." Yeah, I lived for that shit. Say it again; I will do whatever it takes. From straight A’s in grade school (sans the stint of clinical depression in high school) to a practically faultless GPA in college, the approval was oftentimes worth more than my sanity.
I loved the uplifting recognition of being approved of, despite the risk of being looked down upon for my faults. However unhealthy, professional relationships with narcissistic bosses were even better, because when they recognized me for my deeds, I knew it was serious. From late nights at the restaurant to early mornings in the copywriting cave, I wanted to be noticed for nothing other than good.
Alas, an ache for approval can only last so long, and I got bored with seeking acceptance externally. After all my interpersonal training and soul searching, I knew I needed to find approval within myself. But I also needed money.
As a writer, there was one clear path. So I ditched the day job and went for the freelancing foray.
I was surprised with the ease that came with the launch of my freelancing services. Sure, it took time and effort, but after a few months, I had a noteworthy bunch of returning clients as well as some reviews that gave me that familiar butterfly feeling.
There were some ropes I had to show myself, like figuring out what services to offer, the scope of these services, the prices I’d charge and—most importantly—where to draw the line. For the first few months, these morphed a lot. My prices started out low, my services more far-reaching than they should have been.
Over time, I began to form a reputable rapport, and so I decided to shift my pricing and services to a level where I’d not only be making enough to live (which wasn’t too hard considering I spend my days wandering around Southeast Asia), but I’d also be making enough to reserve for next year’s tax day. So too did I have to be careful not to expend too much energy, for freelancing showed me that it’s easier than you think to work yourself to the bone when there’s no one around to tell you to stop.
I thought that taking the leap toward freelancing was a big enough step in facing my overt agreeableness, but I was wrong. While a crucial step, it was just the first of many, and incorporating "no" into my vocabulary more frequently was a rather daunting challenge. Many a potential client thought that haggling with freelancers was not only a respectable tactic, but a necessary one. There were times when I caved, offering special prices for people who complained about their budgets and promised they’d return if I only gave them a deal this one time.
But over time, there were also moments when I stood sturdy in my stance, refusing to give in to people who wanted more for less, a bargain on a human writer that they saw not much different than a knockoff purse at the market.
At first, I thought that I needed every client that came my way. I worried that if I passed on this one, no more would come, which was particularly concerning without the security of a regular paycheck coming my way. I worried I was not enough, that I must concede in order to continue.
However, I soon realized that the beauty of freelancing was picking who you wanted to work with, and agreeing to contracts on your own terms. Sure, not every gig is glamorous (take the eco-friendly power washing company I recently crafted website content for), but others are exciting (like raw dog food from the west coast of the States, handmade straw bags from Southeast Asia and even travel articles for adventure-based magazines).
I often get requests to write reviews for products on Amazon or companies on Yelp for a modest pay. I say no, because I am good enough of a writer and bold enough of a freelancer to do so. I often get requests for large chunks of gigs at prices lower than I offer. And you know what I say to these buyers? Something along the lines of, "I would be happy to complete this work for you at the following price." It’s hard, and it’s scary, but it’s not the end of the world. And it’s surely not the end of my writing escapades. In fact, it’s quite likely just the beginning, for I see no signs of halting in the future to come, and I’ve yet to experience a shortage of interested clients aching for honed writing expertise. At the end of the day, it’s my time, energy and wallet on the line, and that truly is what matters.
One Last Note On Wanting to Be a Writer
My desire to be a professional writer has been a long time coming. While there will always be new directions I’d love to move in, and new projects I’d be honored to undertake even without the bait of pay, one thing is for certain. I do not regret my fortitude in maintaining this passion of mine, through primary school, through undergrad, through the trials and tribulations of my entrance into the career force and through my most recent journey of freelancing as I travel the world with tablet in tow. To all the people who told me it would be hard to find work and probably impossible to make enough money as a writer, I say to you:
I do not agree.
Portraits by John Hannon.