Are You Happy with Your Freelancing Work?

I’m on a Mad Men roll, and I hope you will excuse me for it. In last Sunday’s episode, Don Draper brought up an interesting question in his meeting with the bigwigs of Dow Chemical:

“You’re on top and you don’t have enough. You’re happy because you’re successful. For now. But what is happiness? It’s a moment before you need more happiness.”

For a lot of people, myself included, freelancing is a dream job. But there are days when even the dreamiest of dream jobs can be quite a nightmare. The projects are mind-numbingly boring. The clients are demanding more than what you feel you can give. You don’t feel appreciated for the work you’re doing. And you just don’t feel happy with the work anymore.

Many people take unhappiness with work as a definitive sign that they should move on to other pastures and explore other avenues of earning money. But not all freelancers have that option. For me in particular, leaving freelance writing means re-entering the corporate world. I shudder at the very thought of going back to working in an office and running like a hamster in a wheel.

So what can you do to keep yourself happy with your freelancing work? My answer is to avoid going on a plateau, and there are a handful of ways to do that.

Always challenge yourself.

There’s nothing challenging about writing a press release on the launch of yet another website on weight loss. But boring assignments like that come with the job. Not all the assignments you’ll get as a freelance writer are glamorous or even mildly interesting.

How then can you challenge yourself when you’re faced with piles of assignments that seem dull to you? It can be something like trying to beat your previous typing speed, or the number of words you have written the previous day, or finding a word in the dictionary that you hardly use and seeing how you can put it in your article.

Or you can start a hobby that is entirely different from your freelance work and do your best to excel in it. Mine is crocheting.

Work with people you enjoy interacting with.

To me, a client is more than just a source of work and income. The more I learn from and enjoy working with a client, the more likely I am to accept recurring assignments from them – that is, if they happen to like and enjoy working with me too. All my long-term clients are people I love interacting with, and I consider myself lucky because I have people like them in my professional life.

Maybe you don’t have people like that in your professional life. You don’t have to be friends with your clients, but having clients you really like and whose assignments you look forward to can create a big difference in how satisfied you feel with your freelance work.

Of course, not all clients can be like that. Some clients just come and go. And some clients can be unpleasant to work with. Always remember that you don’t have to be stuck with a client you dislike. If a client treats you like an automaton and doesn’t seem to respect you, don’t be afraid to drop them. There is always someone better out there for you.

Take a break when you really feel you need it.

No matter how much you love your freelance work, there will come a few times when you’d find yourself too exhausted or drained to work. If you don’t have any urgent assignment, then go ahead and take a break. Or get all your existing commitments completed and take off on a holiday. Recharging your batteries is important no matter what line of work you are in. Hopefully you’ll return from your break feeling as good as new and raring to dive into your work.

Remind yourself why you’re freelancing in the first place.

If you’ve been feeling really unhappy with your freelance work and languishing in your quiet despair, ask yourself why you went into freelancing in the first place. Taking the time off to reflect on the reasons that initially motivated you to become a freelancer may help you realign yourself and recommit to your work.

However, if you feel that those reasons don’t apply to you anymore, then you should consider doing something else. There’s no point to staying at a job, any job, if it doesn’t bring you any joy anymore. There is more to working than simply making money. Whether it’s freelancing or not, your work should make you happy for good times or for bad.

Are you happy with your freelancing work? What do you do to keep yourself happy with your work?


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Anna Sibal-Gonzaga is a freelance writer based in the Philippines. She likes reading books and watching movies and TV shows in the sci-fi, fantasy and historical genres. She is also a casual gamer and an all-around nerd.

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