At some point during the past few days, I reached my one-year anniversary as a freelancer. Predictably, I was too busy to notice. I also nearly forgot that my wedding anniversary is coming up (sorry, bebeh!) so you can see where my brain is at.
Still, busy or not, I think anniversaries, like birthdays, are important markers. They’re not inherently more significant than the days around them, but they’re a good time to stop and think about what we’ve learned. I’m declaring today, October 3, the official one-year anniversary, and here’s what I’ve learned so far.
1. I don’t know about getting the worm, but the early bird might not have to work at 10 p.m. This is not to be undervalued. When I get to work at 9 a.m. or earlier, I tend to be a lot more productive and happier.
2. The future belongs to those who keep receipts. (I think I stole this from someone. If it was you, let me know, and I’ll credit you.)
3. You cannot edit your own stuff, even if you walk away from it. If it’s really important (i.e., if you’re getting paid for it, or making your name from it) you need someone else to give it a look.
4. People will try to get you to do all manner of stuff for free. Do not. Professionals get paid for their work. If you want to start a blog with a couple of friends, you can do that for free. Otherwise, charge money.
5. Get a contract. It’ll save legal wrangling later on, but almost more importantly, it’ll save emotional energy trying to figure out what everyone intended in the first place.
6. Be courteous. It’s free, and there’s no reason to make life tougher by being mean. It’s also more professional, but I don’t think that’s the most important reason. There’s not enough nice in the world. You can make someone’s day better by being civil, for real.
7. Have boundaries. “Nice” does not equal “doormat.” Don’t put yourself in a situation where people will expect you to put yourself out when it’s not reasonable, fair, or part of the deal.
8. Do what you say you’re going to do.
9. Plan ahead, and give notice when there’s a change. I’ve got both editing and writing gigs right now, so I’m on both sides of the equation, but I promise you, editors are always happier when you give them a heads up that something isn’t going to happen.
10. Admit when you’ve made a mistake, but don’t say “I’m sorry” more than you have to. This goes double for women. Unfortunately, when you say you’re sorry, some people hear, “I’m weak and wrong. Also, I would like to do more stuff for free for you, under terrible conditions.” Don’t let this happen to you. Just take responsibility and fix the problem as soon as you can.
And that’s it. That’s all the things I know. I’ll go back to complaining about diets and the weather.