"Mr. Animator - life cycle of a project" by A.R Vincent, copyright 2012

Does Freelancing Equal Freedom?

For some freelancing is the chosen alternative to permanent or agency work, for others it’s the way to start on the ladder whilst they find a permanent employer and for yet others it is the only route in their chosen profession. Many who have the choice as to whether to go it alone or work under the umbrella of an employer say they choose the former because it gives them a greater freedom. But for those naïve souls just bumbling in to the creative world, what does that ‘freedom’ actually entail?

The Customer Is Always Right

I think the first thing to point out is that freelancing does not give you carte blanche to be lazy, self-involved, isolationist or antisocial. In fact you must be the antipathy of those things – diligent, organised, hard-working, personable, professional, communicative and friendly.

Freelancing gives you a greater choice in which projects you work on, as long as you choose enough of them to put food on the table, but that doesn’t mean you can whimsically indulge your creativity and do things how you want. Oh no, you have a client to think about and by their very nature they will have a budget, a time frame, a brief and most likely a plethora of ideas. You may still need your mad skills to deliver on the projects but each project is about the client and not about you exploring your art and yourself. This does mean, however, that you can choose work that drives your career and your portfolio in a specific direction, again, as long as you can make that pay of course.

So Does Freelancing Give You Any More Freedom?

Yes. Much of the time, as a freelancer, you have the flexibility to choose when and where you work, both in terms of the contracts you take and the hours and environment you work in. Many freelancers work from home or their own studio (depending what they do) and freelancing can be a super option for those with other commitments to work around.

However, as ever, this can be a double-edged sword as great power comes great responsibility and you could end up working long in to the night to make sure a project is delivered on time. As any home worker knows, scheduling and discipline are your friends as a freelancer. Not having a separate work environment means that there is no clear-cut off point and work will happily chew up your entire life if you let it. Sometimes, especially when you are starting out and don’t know your own limitations you may take on too much and if so you will need to man up to the task even if it means running on empty in terms of social life, family commitments and sleep for a while to do it. Additionally for the freelancer, like those who self-publish or are in any way self-employed, those responsibilities also come in the form of promoting yourself, dealing with complaints and queries and filling out your tax return.

I’m certainly not trying to put anyone off freelance work – I freelance – and it does offer the awesome freedom of being able to pick and choose what you do. You are not constrained by the same obligations and chains of command as those who are employed on a permanent basis which means, as long as you can drum up enough to pay your overheads, you can seek out the jobs you want and create an interesting and diverse portfolio and working life. As with so many things, if you get it wrong the freelance world will become your prison and a tireless task master, but if you get it right then it will show up as a world of dream jobs and interesting, fulfilling and challenging opportunities!

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"Independent" by A.R Vincent, copyright 2012

Creative Freedom

From online shops to web comics, film makers, writers and artists are moving away from conventional routes and finding their own to get their work to the public and make their passion pay.

The well-trodden path…

You are told at school that whatever you want to be in life you must follow a prescribed route. These paths usually involve continued education and eventual employment by a larger corporate entity. For most walking these well-trodden paths is the way to reach their goals, however for many more they have realised it’s not the only way.

Rise of the machines!

In many ways the rise of the internet and increasing access to better technology – from broadband to software – has freed things up. Once if you wanted to write fiction you would need to find an agent, then a publisher or there would be no way of producing enough copies of your work to distribute. Now the birth of epub systems with retail giants like Amazon, Waterstones and Barnes and Noble means you have a choice, and a simple online process can have your self-published book listed with the literary elite in an online store at little or no cost.

Similarly Youtube has made it possible to produce and screen your own short films or animations, while iTunes gives you the chance to sell them. Sites like podomatic.com let you upload audio content – be it audio ‘zines, fiction or how-to guide – while Magcloud.com gives you the chance to produce a high quality printed magazine. Not forgetting, of course, etsy.com or, the granddaddy of them all, Ebay.com which will let you sell your creations online or retailers such as Zazzle.com that will let you stick your art on t-shirts, bags and iPod cases!

Independence day…

It used to be thought that self-publishing or independent production was the last resort and the refuge for those who not be accepted through mainstream routes and were, in some way, substandard. However, though the move away from the mainstream options has come under attack from various critics, producing independent work has created some notable successes, including ‘Simon’s Cat’ creator, animator Simon Tofield, self-published YA author of ‘Tiger’s Curse’, Colleen Houck, and film maker Gareth Edwards, whose low budget film ‘Monsters’ ended up securing a cinema release and much critical acclaim.

Like more traditional options, being self employed is still a double edged sword for the Creative. Obviously, the independent route does not give the creator carte blanche to turn out a sub-standard product, what it does offer is substantial creative freedom and  a way to produce and distribute product without being constrained by an organisations views on fashions, future trend planning or global mass market appeal.

The concept of going it alone is not the easy option though, not least because you don’t have the professional and financial support, advice and backing of a studio, publishing house or agency. It is a huge responsibility and means you are not only the artist but also the publicist, accountant and company secretary. Taking this path puts you very much in charge of your own destiny and whether you blast in to the stratosphere of success or make an equally spectacular balls up of the proceedings you do it on your own time and your own dime!

Choices, choices…

In the end this explosion of creativity should be as exciting for consumers as it should for artists as it takes away the control of the big corporate studios, galleries and publishing houses. Original and edgy work, that may be too niche, nerdy or edgy to appeal to big concerns, is finally making it to audiences.  A brief search online can produce a diverse cornucopia of podcasts, art, crafts, eBooks, web comics, fashion and film to fit every appetite. I have, with only the most basic search, discovered some amazing podcasts, web comics and online boutiques that, in some cases, are every bit as polished as the “professionals” and far more interesting.

All I can say is long may it continue!!