Thom Browne at Pitti Uomo. Photo: Trendland
I am guilty of glossing over the realities of day-to-day life as a freelancer on this blog – the struggles, the anxieties, the endless emails to potential employers, the too-good-to-be-true projects that invariably fall through and the occasional long stretches of time when you don’t have a single job on the horizon. When you’re starting out in this industry, it pays to present a rose-tinted view of your life: ‘Look! I’m in Paris backstage at Lanvin,’ or, ‘A free suit pour moi? Thanks!’ Sure, it sounds a little wanky, and in a way it is wanky. But it follows that whole philosophy of dressing for the job you want, not the job you have.
Due to my proclivity for the aforementioned, I’ve often been accused of being: a trustafarian with access to unlimited funds on Daddy’s credit card; a lucky jerk who never had to work hard for anything; and a barracuda who’d burn anybody to get ahead. The reality is far less glamorous: I did the menswear circuit seven seasons in a row on an absolutely shoestring budget and still made a loss every time (though the relationships I made were worth far more than money); any successes I’ve had or jobs I’ve gotten have been the result of persistently chasing people to the point where they realised I wasn’t going to take no for an answer; and ensuring that the work I produced when I finally did get an opportunity was of a high enough standard that I’d get hired again.
One of the pitfalls of being a freelancer is the amount of time you spend sitting around contemplating your own existence between jobs. Downtime is, after all, the enemy of success. About three times a year, usually during a slow period, I get seized by a panic attack that I’m not achieving enough – if you’re standing still, you’re going backwards. This happened to me these past two weeks. I was home alone, sitting in my room for hours at a stretch and literally freaking out that I’d never work again. It was ridiculous – I’d just completed an amazing contract for a new client, I had some regular writing jobs due, I was shooting a video with Lacoste in a few days time and I’d just experienced a hefty traffic spike on the blog. But once the Lacoste job was wrapped, I had nothing upcoming besides a 50/50 shot at an all expenses paid trip to Coachella (which fell through yesterday). I started to freak out.
For about 10 days straight, I panicked. The more I thought about it, the less work I did, and the less work I did, the more I panicked (it was a self-perpetuating cycle). I lost track of anything positive going on, and focussed solely on the negatives. It was counterproductive, self-indulgent and obviously nothing was achieved.
After a while, I started to put things into perspective. It’s crazy, but if I’d spent half that negative energy coming up with ways to get out of the funk, I would have probably allowed myself one day of wallowing, then just gotten on with it.
So I’ve devised a list of things to do the next time this happens, that I hope might assist anybody else who finds themselves in a similar rut:
1. Call someone who will have the patience to allow you to complain about your life for about 20 minutes, and the good sense to tell you to shut up and get over it.
2. Have a shower, get dressed and leave the house. Unplug the TV, log off Netflix, shut down Facebook, stop browsing the blogs, Twitter and Tumblr and go do something productive. Work out at the gym, go for a run, volunteer for a charity, have lunch with a friend.
3. Maximise your contacts. Email everyone you haven’t talked to for a while and meet them for a coffee. You never know what might come out of it.
4. Set some goals. But make them attainable.
5. Count your successes – have a look at the great things you’ve achieved over the past six/12 months. Think about how you got those opportunities, the steps you took and the skills required to get ahead. Utilise those skills.
6. Repeat one through five until desired results are achieved.
Best of luck.
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