Being a freelance artist is not just about the artistry in itself. It’s not just about the act of dancing, writing, acting, painting etc. There is so much more to it and it’s so much more work than what you see on social media. We have to learn how to be proactive, creative, resourceful, learn how to communicate, network and make an actual income from it – while (trying to) not go completely insane mentally.
This post will be helpful if you’re considering a freelance career! Let’s go!
What does freelancing even mean?
A freelance job is one where you work for yourself, rather than for a company. Freelancers are self-employed, and take lots of different contracts.
The cool thing about freelancing is that you get to work with so many different people, companies and brands. Not two jobs are alike, you decide which contracts you want to take because you’re your own boss! You’ll most likely never get bored – and if you do – the job you’re on won’t last forever. Phew!
The best things about freelancing is also the worst things about freelancing. Therefore, I put together a list og things I wish I knew about freelancing as a dancer before I started:
1. Making your own schedule is not that easy
Freelance dancers are in charge of their own schedule. Where you take classes and in which styles, who you learn from, how often and how many hours a week is entirely and completely up to you. It’s not like team sports where you have specific practices you have to go to once a day or sets of workouts with the team’s personal trainer. You don’t have a game every Sunday, instead you have auditions that can show up at any time. But outside of auditions you are in charge of figuring out how you grow the most.
It requires a lot of self discipline and time management skills to schedule dance classes, workouts, LA casting submissions, selftapes, your social media presence, networking, passion projects, flexibilility training, side hustles, a social life and REST. Scheduling rest can be super hard in a society where we glorify the hustle and #TeamNoSleep.
2. … but it’s GREAT to have a flexible schedule
You definitely gain more flexibility when you’re a freelancer! If you hate early mornings but feel like the most creative working at 2 A.M or the other way around, freelancing is for you. I can write these blog posts whenever I want and for as many hours I want. In my “dance life” I can sleep in if my body needs it, so you have more room to listen to your body’s need.
Another great thing about freelance jobs is that when you’re first getting started, you can easily keep your 9-5 job for awhile. With a flexible schedule you can work in the after-hours and on the weekend until your freelance business starts taking off. There’s no shame in working another job. Which brings me to my next point:
3. Don’t “just quit your job”
I’ve seen all those TikTok’s and YouTube videos of passionate people yelling: “QUIT YOUR JOB, GO FOR YOUR DREAM!!” and while I agree with the “go for your dream” part, rent is still rent and realisticly overnight successes don’t happen that often.
There’s absolutely NO shame in holding on to a job that can give you financial security for a while. You can use that money to buy courses, classes, hours with a mentor, invest in tools to promote your business like webpages (hi, me), headshots, equiptment, and most importantly: avoid stress and anxiety about finances.
(Read my blog post about side hustles here!)
4. You don’t have the same job stability when you’re a freelancer
In dancing, acting, singing, performing, blogging, writing etc., you just don’t know when the next paycheck will arrive or how much money you’re gonna make. It’s very unsteady. I’ve even had lots of dance contracts where you get paid between 30-90 days.
It can be stressful!
An income isn’t guaranteed, and you can make $2000 one month and $800 the next… Or you know, $10,000 one month and $500 the next. Or $0 one month. You get the point.
When you’re in-between jobs it’s easy to feel a bit (very) anxious, trust and believe, we have all been there.
When you are booked on a job it feels like you’ll be booked forever, and when you’re unemployed it feels like you’re gonna be unemployed forever too. None of it is true.
But you have to be able to deal with the uncertainty. Financially, but especially also mentally. If you tie your entire feeling of self-worth to the jobs you’re booking or the amount of money you’re making, freelancing will be so flipping tough.
Don’t let it scare you though, you’ll grow thicker skin along the way. How? I’m glad you’re asking:
5. Rejection is a part of freelancing
You’ve heard people say that you’ll get so many no’s in the freelance world. I want you to close your eyes and imagine how many “no’s” you’ll get. Quadruple that number.
When you enter the audition world, you’ll stand next to hundreds of professional, beautiful, strong and confident dancers and you often have a 30 second routine to show to the casting directors before they say “thank you for coming, no thank you”. Other times they will type cast before they let you dance, which means that you often get cut based of your look.
With blogging or any sort of social media job, rejection looks like someone not replying to an e-mail or a brand telling you that you’re not what they’re looking for. It’s less “to your face” than auditions are since everything is through a screen, but it sure affects most people’s mental health too if the engagement on a post is low or people unfollow you or write mean comments.
It’s easy to get discouraged, but remember that nothing is personal.
My wish for any freelancer is to see “no” as redirection or motivation.
6. No one can tell you to do anything
The cool thing about freelancing in any field is that you don’t really work for anyone, so you have the option to turn down job opportunities too! If something isn’t appealing to you and someone is trying to underpay you – byeee Felicia. Respectfully.
You don’t have to work with everyone who wants to work with you. Always remember that it’s a two-way street! You are your own brand and you have the power of a CEO in your own business. Don’t ever forget that you don’t owe people anything. YOU are the prize, my love! *Cue confetti*.
7. Communication and building relationships in freelancing is key
Degrees and grades mean less and less in this world, and building strong genuine relationships is everything. We like to call it “networking” but there’s something about that word that doesn’t sound genuine.
To me networking sounds like passing your business card around to everyone at an event. And sure, that will make people aware of your existence, but building an actual relationship is much more powerful to your life and to your career.
Why is it important? If you’re a freelance dancer, choreographers often don’t hold auditions but instead “direct book” which means that they pick dancers based on who they know and who they trust already.
It’s like making friends in a new place, so the same rules apply – be nice, be yourself, work hard, be genuine and listen to what they have to say, when you meet new people. Stay humble, down-to-earth, be reliable, recognize your worth and speak confidently about yourself and your abilities (is that too much to ask!?) … all in all, you’ll find yourself getting way more opportunities based on your personal relationships and build amazing friendships along the way.
8. Find your people
I cannot stress enough how important it is to remember being human outside of your freelance life. Sounds easy? Not always.
Find friends who you can be yourself with, who you can talk about not-only-business with too. Friends who want to go for a margarita with me on Taco Tuesday’s, a hike in the morning or to jazz friday’s at the museum are so important to me to avoid burnout.
9. Freelancing takes time
It really does. So stop being so hard on yourself.
Please “just keep swimming”, as they say in Finding Nemo.
10. Freelancing teaches you to recognize your worth
I think most people undercharge when they start out. How much to teach a class? Ehhh… How much for a sponsored blog post? Uhmm, idk, what do you think? Stop, stop, stop.
Undercharging is first of all bad for your income, but it can also looks bad to your clients if you charge low. They wonder – is this too good to be true?
You HAVE to realize that when you’ve spent 10+ years in a field like dance for instance, you are most likely an expert in your field. So you should be getting paid like an expert.
Check this post on how much professional dancers make!
11. The small victories feel 10 times bigger
Because YOU did that. YOU. How fun and amazing is THAT!
12. Freelancing is not for everyone
It takes a certain type of crazy to love EVERYTHING about freelancing, since it comes with so much hard work, uncertainty and mental stress, but listen – you’re not a cooler person for being a freelancer or starting your own business.
We are all different and being a ceo isn’t and shouldn’t be the ultimate goal for everyone. This day-to-day lifestyle is not fun for everyone. It’s not suppoed to be.
I definitely reccommend trying it out if you’ve ever wondered what freelancing is like – but you’re definitely not weak or just ” sheep” or whatever the heck they call it on social media if you work a 9-5 job.
The goal is to do what makes you happy.
13. Get your taxes together
Learn about it – like yesterday.
14. You can work all the time, so you work all the time
Night, days, early mornings, weekends..
I’m sure most freelancers let their work consume them, but it’s important to remember to slow down and enjoy the journey rather than thinking that you can’t be happy or proud of yourself before you make it to a certain point in your career.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
15. Building healthy and consistent habits is everything
Whether it’s a morning walk with your dog, sitting down with a podcast and a cup of coffee, lighting candles at night or taking every Friday off – building habits that you’re strict about helps you stay sane.
Find workouts that are FUN, make your working desk a cute little space with plants and candles, sign up for a weekly yoga class, get a night routine – whatever sparks a little joy every day.
Your body and your mind is your instrument, your meal ticket and your bestie, so treat yourself with some good old respect. Sleep enough and stay hydrated (Note to self: that means water, not a gallon of coffee).
16. Keep learning, stay curious
As a dancer, you keep going to classes and training in different styles and with different teachers and choreographers, because you know that you can always get better. Even exploring different paths and learning skills like acting, yoga, learn more about nutrition, video editing, photography, fashion, makeup or building webpages are all things that will help me grow in my dance career as well.
It’s an on going process. If you start an online business, you’re not gonna know everything right from the beginning – and you’re not supposed to either! You just have to be willing to sit down on your butt and learn about marketing, taxes, time management, networking, social media etc. Did I know how to build a website? Uhm, no. Yet here we are.
You just have to start, be willing to make a ton of mistakes and learn from those mistakes.
If you want your business to grow, you need to grow.
At the end of the day;
We have to remember that the journey is all there ever is.
So with that in mind, we have to find some sense of peace and fun in the middle of the freelancing C-H-A-O-S. Like prioritizing a social life, sleep and celebrating the small steps every day.
The most beautiful thing is gaining so much more self-confidence and feeling of accomplishment from overcoming all these daily little struggles. It makes it all worth it. It feels so good to build something on your own and explore your own potential while seeing what you can get away with in your industry.
Only the joy you get from what you do outweights the difficulties and the obstacles!
Still hesitant? Read “Start Before You Feel Read – 9 Reasons to go for it!” here!
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