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As some of you will know, and as some of you may not, I am a freelance photographer & web developer by trade and I happen to pursue a fairly nomadic lifestyle by choice. I started taking photography in high school and majored in New Media Studies at the University of Toronto. The New Media Studies program was a joint program with Centennial College, meaning not only did I get the theoretical training from university but I also received applied hands on training during the college portion.
When I was finishing high school, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with myself as far as career aspirations went, which I think is pretty common amongst many high school seniors. I had always been extremely creative and knew I wanted to do something technology oriented. After browsing through countless university and college options (not to say that there aren’t other post secondary options besides schooling) I came across quite a few schools offering New Media, Media Arts, or Communication Studies, type programs.
These programs seemed to have a good mix of technology and creativity. They weren’t so specific that they would pigeonhole my career possibilities but they weren’t so broad that they didn’t have any practical real-world application. Long story short, I was happy with the program I choose. My program started out with a very wide look at the various forms, of new and emerging media as well as more traditional forms of media. Throughout my four and a half years, I was able to pick and choose and slowly narrow down my interests.
Now I find myself nearly four years post-graduation and I am happily sustaining myself whilst traveling the globe, by working as a freelance photographer and web developer. I am frequently asked, what is it like to be a freelancer?
Many friends and people I meet say, “wow, you’re so lucky, you have the best job”. Much of the time I feel this is true. I can work from just about anywhere be it my home, my hotel/hostel, a cafe, on the beach, in my van, on boats, planes, trains and so on. I choose my own hours, I wear whatever I like to work, I choose the projects I want to take, etc. And these are usually the aspects that other people see and think about when they hear that you are a freelancer, and a nomadic one no less.
But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, please believe! I don’t have benefits such as health insurance, sick days, vacation pay, etc. I don’t have guaranteed work and thus don’t have a guaranteed steady-stream of income. Some months for instance I may have five to ten clients and some I might have one. I have to handle all aspects of a business from promotion, to money management and accounting, to client relations, to customer service, to tech-support, to project management, etc. Things that most businesses have individual workers or even entire departments to handle.
As a freelancer, a lot is riding on your shoulders. Most people don’t see that aspect of a freelancer’s life. They see the freedom and flexibility but fail to notice the lack of security and additional roles and responsibilities that it requires.
At the end of the day, I love the challenge. I love taking on the different roles, and constantly changing my surroundings and routine. It keeps things fresh and exciting for me, instead of doing the same old thing at the same old place, every day. I love having the freedom that freelancing provides even if it means less security and in some instances more responsibility and work. Perhaps further down the line, if I end up with a family and kid/s, I may require something more stable. Or maybe by that time, I will be well established enough that the work stream is consistent and reliable enough that I can continue on. Whatever the future holds, I know my experience now as a freelancer and nomadic explorer of the world will help me handle whatever is to come.