“The Free(lance) Life, Month 1” BY ZAAR TAHA

By the minneapolis egotist / /

After just 30 days of being out on my own, untethered by the too-fast-or-too-slow-moving agency clock, I find myself in a highly unfamiliar position. It’s 11:27 am and I’m home, lounging on my living room sofa, writing this piece. It’s neither billable nor due at any particular time. So weird. I’m either caught up with all my work or I don’t have any work to be caught up on. Glass half empty or half full, it’s an unsettling feeling.

For the past 24 years, I’ve been gainfully employed—one relatively stable ad gig after another—with good benefits and, of course, direct deposit. I’ve built a solid career out of an ability to boil down a good idea, write it smart and clean, and by never putting anything off a minute longer than is absolutely necessary. I slowly and carefully climbed the ranks from copywriter to senior writer to ACD to CD to Creative VP. Then, in the blink of an eye, with no regard for my oh-so-important advertising career, my father took ill, suffering from infections on the brain, throwing our whole family’s world completely out of whack. So I went freelance to find some flexibility and focus during those scary several weeks. Now, as my father thankfully recovers, I have more time on my hands than I know what to do with.

Admittedly, as a first-time freelancer, I’ve already made the rookie mistake of equating every hour of the day with a dollar figure. That’s a mistake I hope to not repeat. Instead, I’m realizing the value of daylight hours spent visiting an ailing parent, lunch with an old friend, and of course, a good night’s sleep.

During this first month, I’ve also been guilty of counting my proverbial eggs pre-hatch. Just as I found myself banking on solid weekly work, through no fault of my own, the opportunity slipped through my fingers. True, that stung for a few minutes, and it even made me feel a bit stupid, but I’m intent on finding the silver lining. Surely even greater opportunities lie ahead, ones I may have otherwise missed had the first one bogged me down. That will be my mindset moving forward. It simply has to be.

The good news is, on this maiden freelance voyage, I’ve made far more connections (and reconnections) than blunders. It’s been great getting together with old ad school classmates and former coworkers who today are creative directors and agency founders. We’ve reminisced over the good old days of this business and talked about how together we could make its future even better. I’ve downed many coffees with recruiters, fellow freelancers, and even potential clients—and somehow managed to remember to save the receipts for all of them.

It’s 3:03 pm now. I need to wrap this up because I have a 4:00 meeting downtown. Here’s to all the learning moments Month 2 has in store.

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