5 Myths about Freelancing (in the Entertainment Industry)
As a Frenchie I had a hard time considering myself a freelancer.
The Entertainment industry is indeed well-protected there and as a person working within this industry you become an "intermittent". It's not exactly like being freelance because you can share some of the benefits of employment. In fact when you start working on a film you would sign a contract and become the employee of the production company for the time of the production. It's really ideal as you can get unemployment when you contract ends and your taxes for health insurance and retirement are already taken out of your salary. In my opinion, this system is really well designed for people working within this industry.
However I'm mostly working abroad now (UK and USA) so I had to adapt to other work laws and become a self-employed costume designer and wardrobe stylist.
Self-employement or freelancing (same thing) is surrounded by myths. It either sounds like a dream coming from my friends who are working within a regular company or a hell of a place when I talk with fellow freelancers. My French culture didn't help much as freelancing is still perceived as a "non-serious" or "non-professional" thing there as you can't have paid vacations or retirement plan. I kind of gave up about retirement anyway so I don't feel so much concerned about that.
Yet I think it would be good to unpack the reality of what a freelance lifestyle is, especially working within my industry (cause I can only talk about what I know - at least a little).
Myth 1 / You can go on vacation anytime you want
Yes I mostly travel outside of the holiday period but the reason is not the one you think.
As a freelancer, I never know how my calendar is going to look like in the next couple months. Sure, there are seasons that are way more productive than others. In the film industry we usually have more work toward spring and summer until October. It's easier to shoot a film outside when it's sunny and warm than when it's the middle of winter. Also we have more holidays in winter than in summer (Thanksgiving then Christmas...) so it's better to not have to stop a production in the middle.
Because I don't have much insight about my schedule, it is difficult to plan holidays in advance. In fact I have stopped doing that because if I plan to go somewhere it's usually the time someone will decide to call me for a job. Therefore I usually travel outside of the traditional holiday period because flights are usually too expensive around these times when booked late.
Myth 2 / It's less stressful to be your own boss
I guess it depends what kind of boss you are haha. I found myself less stressed when I was working for someone else or within a company because I know what's expected from me and I have a list of tasks to do.
When I'm my own boss, I tend to be way more perfectionist and demanding with myself. I sometimes set the standards too high and end up feeling guilty or miserable if I didn't finish my tasks in time. Experience helps me softening up a little but I think it takes practice to understand your abilities and weaknesses when you work alone.
Myth 3 / You don't have to deal with annoying colleagues
This is my favorite myth because I'm an introvert so I understand the pain of having to deal with talkative and invasive people. Although I hate working all alone.
I believe creativity comes from within ourselves but also from being around others. If I wanted to work alone I would not have chosen this career because my work is all about making someone else's story and vision alive ! So no, I don't enjoy being alone all the time and I'd rather work within a crew of other costumers than by myself. It's good to have other people's perspective and I don't really understand designers who never want to listen to their assistants point of views.
Myth 4 / You can organize your time however you want
Not really. I work within a time frame and I have tons of deadlines. I think time management is the most difficult thing as a freelancer because I'm either super flexible or super tight in time. Sometimes I don't work for a month so I spend time networking, writing, being creative, improving my portfolio and looking for work (so no, I can't go on vacation lol) but then I suddenly have 2 or 3 projects at the same time and I don't have a life anymore.
After a very quiet winter I now have a short and an indie feature to design at the same time and I don't have much budget for assistants. I know summer will end super fast !! I'm basically working every single weekends in July and trying to have a very precise schedule for June so I can meet all the deadlines. Weekends are not real weekends in the freelancing world ;)
Myth 5 / Money. How do you pay rent every months ?
Well sometimes it's easy and sometimes it's hard. I don't know any frivolous freelancers though. You need to be super lucid about your finance. I can't overspend on something and tell myself I will be frugal next month because I simply don't know how next month will end.
Maybe that's why credit cards are a big thing here in the USA because you can spend more than you have and decide to pay back later. I wasn't raised within this culture so I never spend what I don't have. In my opinion, this is a rule every aspiring successful freelancers should follow.
Although it's great to be fully in charge of your finance, you should never forget to add an extra on your invoice for the taxes you'll have to pay later.
And be ready to fight for getting paid on time...