The Ten Commandments for Freelancers

By Celeste Kaufman August 6th, 2014

1. Thou shalt not lead thy entire life from a bed.


The prospect of doing work from the comfort of a bed is incredibly enticing for neophyte freelancers. Each day you wake up thinking, “How cool is this? I don’t even have to leave to get to work!” Soon, the honeymoon period will fade, and comfort begins to feel more like routine. You realize you’re just bored. Do not enter a long-term relationship with your bed. Your desk is for working. Your table is for eating. Your couch is for watching TV. You can trust me on this and all of the other commandments, because I am definitely not writing this in bed right now.

2. Thou shalt not blur the lines between thy ‘Social Network’ and thy social network.


Social media can be a freelancer’s best friend; it’s an easy, effective, and free way to spread the word, build your network, and seek out new opportunities. But you also presumably want to have friends. No one wants to feel like your friendship is really a marketing opportunity. Get those Klout scores out of your eyes and remember to actually maintain the “friend” part of friendship.

3. Thou shalt not treat thy intern poorly.


Once you make your way up the work ladder, it can be difficult to remember what it was like back when you started out. Resist kicking your intern out of the room when she has an accident, and instead, scratch her behind the ears like she so clearly deserves. Give her a comfy chair and don’t be stingy with the treats, and she’ll be transcribing your interviews in no time. Not only is your intern there to help you, you’re there to help her. And to be clear, your intern is a cat.

4. Thou shalt not wallow in rejection.


A life of freelancing is a life of rejection. Not everyone will recognize your brilliance, and the sooner you learn to brush it off, the better. Learning to deal with rejection is actually an indirect benefit of your job. Take that skill and apply it to different parts of your life, like dating, or preparing for difficult conversations with your family, or any kind of negotiating. Think of it this way—that sexy blonde at the bar is just another editor you’re pitching to. And if she says no? Well, who needs The New Yorker anyway?

5. Thou shalt not panic when thou must interact with another human.


We’ve all been there. You’re next in line at Dunkin’ Donuts when you’re hit with a wave of panic that came out of nowhere. By the time you reach the register, you realize it’s been days since you’ve spoken out loud to anyone other than yourself and your intern. Maybe it started with you holing up in your apartment for a few days to meet multiple deadlines, but then you realized your bed is comfy and needed to catch up binging Orange Is the New Black.

Resist that siren song. You need to remember to make the effort to get out of your house and out of your head.

6. Thou shalt not sell thyself short.


One of the strangest parts of freelancing is being responsible for the awkward task of determining how much you’re worth. Whether it’s deciding your rates, fighting for a check, or figuring out which league you’re currently in when pursuing new clients, you must be honest and firm when assessing your value. I personally have a devotional candle with a picture of Kanye West on my desk to remind myself not to waver from my convictions.

7. Thou shalt not let the Internet animals become distractions.


Did you see that video where the little baby goat goes nuts and back-flips off his pal’s butt? No, you didn’t. Because even though you’re working from home, you’re a professional and you do not let the Wild West of the Internet get in the way of your productivity. You can try one of those apps that won’t let you open your browser, which really forces you to focus only on your work. But what about the compilation of cats stealing beds from dogs? What if it somehow gets removed from the Internet in the hour you’re about to spend working? No—resist!

8. Thou shalt not forget thy swag.


If you’re in a rut, remember what drew you to freelancing in the first place. Clearly, we’re all in it for the swag. Is there a book you want to read? Sure, you could go to the library like some sort of plebe, or you can request a review copy. Personal hero you want to meet? Pitch a profile and schedule an interview. Event you really want to go to? Press pass. Even if you don’t successfully sell your idea and get free stuff, thinking about what you want can be a great way to generate new ideas.

9. Thou shalt not wear the same pajamas more than two days in a row.


Even if the only person who sees you is your intern, that’s no excuse to turn into a slob. Yes, if you come from the corporate world, revel in not having to handle expenses while wearing a pantsuit, but don’t let a sweatpants uniform become the norm.

10. Thou shalt not forget thy brothers and sisters.


As a freelancer, you’ve probably been beaten over the head with the necessity of networking. But the funny thing about networking is that it goes both ways. You may feel like you’re competing with everyone at the beginning, but you don’t need to wait until your name’s on a masthead to start paying it forward. Keep your eyes out for opportunities your friends and colleagues might like. Ask yourself, What would Moses do?

Image by Adrian Hilton
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