Going Freelance: The Realities of My Transition

Life was good. I mean, life is good but, damn life was good.

I had been working for the lovely gentlemen at Saint West Filmworks for about 3.5/4 years and we made some badass stuff together. I was making decent money for a 21 year old with only a high school education and I got to hang out with my friends everyday for eight hours, Monday through Friday. I got to build a pretty freakin sweet portfolio. I was working in the field I wanted to be in, with a great crew that I had basically harassed for two years until I finally got this dream job of mine. And I had every intention to stay under their employ and make awesome stuff until we were all old and crusty and couldn't push a record button down anymore. So what gives?

Well, time gives, creativity gives, your sanity gives; or rather, you slowly see yourself give those things up. And I don't mean to say that my boys at Saint West were hovering over my desk painting everything I did with a dull, grey brush. We all found ourselves in bit of a pickle after having worked amazingly together for years. We ended up in a situation that, at its outset, looked like a prime deal with a sweet new downtown office all to our own and shiny, new big name clients to go with it.

Well none of the aforementioned awesomeness came to fruition. Things quickly changed from doing rad work to entering work hours into Workamajig. Kick me right in the teeth.

So about a year after the acquisition we left. All of us.

Our longtime editor Ryan Knight went on to partner with the awesome team at Pure Cinema Productions, I went off on my own, and Matt Mangham, Scott Rieckens and Matt Jensen now make up the powerhouse crew behind Saint West Filmworks. And lucky me, I still get to work with all of them.

The first few months were smooth sailing.

Jobs aplenty. Money was flowing. New clients. Old crew. It was almost like it was back before the acquisition, but with more vacation time. Then I learned what it's like to have too much vacation time. Not enough jobs. Not enough money. And I'm still learning how to navigate all of this. I've done the one-meal-a-day thing during the weeks I wait for checks to come in. I've even done the no-meal-a-day thing. I've had to take money from my tax account to pay my rent and feed myself. And holy shit this is only month 7. And holy shit I love it. I've got a whole new appreciation for the phrase "the struggle is real". The truth is, unless you have an amazing network and your phone is ringing off the hook you will most likely, and quite literally, go hungry at times in the beginning.

I've had this conversation several times over the last few weeks, which led to the writing of this post. I get asked, "Has it been tough?", or "Is it worth it?", a lot. My short answer is, "Yes, and yes." The honest truth is I'd rather be broke on my own account than have a great salary and work on stuff I'd rather not work on. And I'm happier for it. That's not to say there aren't times I've got to take a job I wouldn't normally be inclined to do because I need to get by, that happens. But at least it's of my own volition, and that makes the not so fun jobs easier to swallow.

I'm totally green at this, but I'm getting better at it. Getting used to the ebb and flow. Saving for rainy days when times are good, and tightening my belt when they aren't. I consider myself lucky to do what I do, and to be able to do it for myself. If you're feeling the itch to strike out on your own, I encourage you to go about it with precision. Work your networks, expand your circles, meet new people, go to Ad Club meetings, and attend creativity boosting/networking events (like Creative Mornings).

Do good work, be nice to people, and shake as many hands as you can.