Friday, 1 March 2013

Busy doing nothing, working the whole day through...

I have read two pieces this week about working from home; one from the popular blogger Girl Lost in the City about the stigma attached to working for yourself and another by Anya Kamenetz citing why freelancers are more likely to suffer from depression.  One had the uplifting argument that we have the ability to work and be productive anywhere whilst the other, well if freelance people weren’t depressed already, they were after reading it.  It had me running to the nearest water cooler for co-worker support and a pension scheme.

Now seems the perfect time to mention that I am typing in my pyjamas ensconced in my freelancing day and contemplating a lunch-time run before teaching this evening.
The freelancing stereotype, although substitute coffee for green tea for me!
So what is “freelancing” and why should it contribute to depression?  Trusty old Wikipedia says “A freelancer is somebody who is self-employed and not committed to a particular employer long term.”  You can argue that actors are freelance workers because we offer our services out to companies and remain self-employed whilst completing contracts.  Freelance folk have to hustle for work; writers pitch to editors and actors audition, it is up to the freelancer to generate work for themselves.  The only boss you need to answer to if your bank balance is getting depressed is yourself.  And here lies the juxtaposition of joy and despair.
You can work on countless different projects, challenge yourself and make up your own hours but if there is no work to be found you cannot force an employer to hire you or pay that long overdue invoice.
Kamenetz argues that for all the variety and flexibility linked to freelancing, the financial insecurity and rejections are likely to make someone depressed because job satisfaction is proven to have a strong impact on a person’s mental health. 
I have mentioned before both on here and in my forthcoming article for The Fourthwall Magazine that keeping yourself “up” in-between jobs is vital for an actor; if we sink into a vulnerable self-loathing state then audition panels will pick up on our negative energy, agree that we probably are talentless and not give us work.  But this is easier said than done; when your talents are employed you feel useful, worthy and busy and without that stimulation you need to be Pollyanna to find job satisfaction every day.
 “A workplace should never be defined as where your desktop computer lives; it should be where your commitment does.”
says Girl Lost in the City, we don’t need to be tethered to an office desk to be productive but I suppose the balance is, when reading the piece on depression, the level of commitment.  How do you motivate yourself to pitch for tenth time this morning or go to yet another audition when the train fare could buy you groceries instead. If you have the assignments or auditions you can of course work anywhere with dedication because there is work there to be completed, the problem lies when the ‘work well’ has run dry.  It can happen to the most talented freelancer without rhyme or reason; if you are prone to “down days” how do you keep the motivated, committed and believing when you’d rather pull the curtains and watch Homes Under the Hammer?
Pollyanna - let's play the glad game!
I am no Pollyanna despite how perky or practical I may come across as on here, the fact is that motivating yourself is easier on some days than on others.  I make myself do something work related every day; research online, blogging, applying for jobs or just reading tweets that make me feel linked to my beloved industry.  Without getting too “doctor-y” on you, exercise is vital not only to keep to my stated weight on my spotlight page (gulp!) but also to release endorphins.  When I went through a small “black dog” phase a few years ago my doctor recommended exercise, vitamin B and bananas, going for a run or to the gym also gives you a reason to get out the house and a focus for your day. We all have down days but depression is a serious medical issue and we mustn’t confuse the two.  Actors are notoriously needy and insecure, we have entered a profession where we literally are applauded if we do well so it’s no wonder we deflate if it is no longer there.
 I dare you to be awesome today!
I can’t disregard Kamenetz’s research or medical studies and state “No, freelancers are quite jolly thank you very much, we may have irregular income but we deal with it and enjoy our freedom to spread our creative wings, so keep your Prozac,” because depression can affect anyone, from an actor to a Lawyer.  But I do agree that the working world is evolving in every industry and perhaps we all need a bit of help to stay motivated.  More people are becoming self-employed, working from home and being expected to answer emails 24 hours a day; the boundaries of an average working week are shifting.  More actors are entering an industry where people cling to contracts like Ken Barlow to the cobbles and are having to create their own alternative opportunities to stay afloat.  Things may sometimes be a challenge but stick on your favourite song, wiggle your bum and dance about and try not to let them get you down; and that applies to everyone, freelancers or not!

A final thought that made me smile! from
Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s 2pm and I need to get out of my pyjamas!

Take a look at the pieces that inspired this post

Girl Lost In The City -

The Fast Company -


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