We’re welcoming this Independence Day by celebrating independence from older, archaic work cultures. By embracing the new future of work. The new normal.
But here, at Kool Kanya, we have more reason to commemorate this Independence Day. Kool Kanya launched India’s first one-of-its-kind freelance marketplace platform for women. So this Independence Day, I had the opportunity to speak to a few of our Kool Kanya Marketplace freelancers and find out all about what independence from 9-to-5 feels like for them.
What’s It Really Like To Be An Independent Working Professional
Being independent can mean different things for different people. But this year, as I was talking to those independent working professionals, I was introduced to a whole new meaning of independence and liberation.
The kind where your career path and your professional journey is independent of any imposed hierarchies, except the ones you choose from time to time.
As a writer myself, I was always vaguely familiar with the freelancing lifestyle. However, after having spoken to some truly inspiring women to get this piece out, I’m beginning to feel that living as an independent working professional is perhaps the closest one can come to creating one’s own destiny.
So to answer “what’s it really like to be an independent working professional”?
Or as Prerna Prakash, a freelance writer puts it, it’s
The Big Wins In Being Independent From 9-to-5
Last year when Kool Kanya hosted its first ever #Unblocked event for Freelance Writers, the general consensus amongst the freelancers in the room was their love for being able to work at odd hours of the day. Or in the nights. And of course, squeezing in those precious afternoon naps which helps boost productivity. (Or so they say.)
But suffice it to say that this consensus holds true for most kinds of freelancers, everywhere.
When I first thought of this question, the most obvious answer was the one to do with having the space and flexibility to plan out your day. And while most freelancers voraciously agree that having the freedom to decide what your day looks like is most certainly a big win; there’s a lot more to flexibility than just planning out your day.
Flexibility & Independence
When I posed this question to Annie Hazarika, a freelance graphic designer, and a part-time theatre actor, she mentioned how this lifestyle gives her the freedom to not only choose when she works, but also how she works.
As someone who had always wanted to become an artist, she had decided very early on that she does not want to bog herself and her creativity down by committing to just one line of work. Being an independent working professional for the last 5 years, she’s learnt that she simply works better without pressure.
So I asked her the obvious, “Do you like working at odd hours of the day?”
She laughs and says, “I go to sleep at 5am almost every other night!”
As someone who’s nocturnal herself, and simply works better at night but isn’t always able to because her official work hours start particularly early, I did envy her a little bit then, not gonna lie.
“If I work during the day, then I’m not gonna be able to observe, right?”, says Annie.
While Annie loves the flexibility of working through the nights, for freelance digital marketer Neha Wadhwa flexibility of work has everything to do with being able to spend time with her year-and-a-half old son.
“After having a baby, your career goes for a toss”, says Neha as she reminisces about stepping into the freelance lifestyle when her son was just a couple months old.
Having been a corporate junkie for over 8 years, Neha has taken to the freelancing lifestyle like a fish to water. She loves being able to spend time with her son and loves working the number of hours she chooses to work. More importantly, she loves being able to interact with her clients directly.
She muses over how while working in a company, all her ideas, her strategies and plans would be mediated via a superior.
Shivani Prajapati, yet another freelance digital marketer, echoes this flexibility and mentions how she loves that she can interact with her clients on a one-on-one basis. Sans any form of mediation. “Things tend to get lost in transit. Especially in digital marketing.”, says Shivani as she talks about enjoying this direct communication.
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Building Your Own Brand
One of the biggest freelance lifestyles wins for Pooja Dara, a freelance writer, is that there isn’t an upper limit or any kind of external restriction when it comes to how much you can earn.
In the corporate world, there’s a high chance that there will be several factors affecting your month end paycheque. There’s market standards, the hurdles of appraisals, glass ceiling, etc. But the same doesn’t particularly hold true for the independent professionals’ lifestyle.
Working in a company ensures that you get a constant paycheque at the end of every month. But that’s what it is – fixed and constant. With freelancing, you set your own limits of how many projects you take up and how many clients you work with. Including how much you charge too!
“There is no upper limit to what you can earn,” says Pooja Dara. Sure, it’s a hustle. But what isn’t it, right?
Yet another big win for Pooja is the freedom to build your own brand.
A sentiment which reflected when I was talking to yet another freelance writer, Aadya Sharma. As someone who started freelancing as recently as the beginning of the nation-wide lockdown, Aadya feels that she enjoys freelancing majorly because it gives her the freedom to build her own brand.
As creative professionals working for a company, it’s very easy to let your own creative identity be lost in the company’s.
Aadya mentions how working independently gives her this freedom to control her creative identity.
“It’s better in terms of revenue too. You have more control over your revenue growth. You can’t always grow according to your own aspirations in a 9-t0-5 job”, says Aadya.
As someone whose major part of a work day involves child care duties, Neha mentions how freelancing might have started out as a convenient layover, but soon grew to become a chosen lifestyle.
Similarly, Pooja mentions how she’s able to maintain a work-life balance much more easily as a freelancer. She loves spending time with herself and her family and loves being able to map out her day in accordance with how she pleases.
She, like several others I had the opportunity to speak with, mentioned how working as a freelancer gives her the freedom and the creative space to pursue things other than just conventional work.
“I can take up side hustles and I am not drained from doing just one thing”, says Aadya.
Student and part time freelance graphic designer Apoorva Dasila says, “I am an independent soul.” She loves travelling and dreams of living a life where she can create and work as she travels.
More importantly, a major win for a majority of freelancers that I spoke to was the ability to have multiple different sources of income.
For someone who wants to pursue multiple hobbies and have the freedom to fill their day with many different activities, a 9-to-5 can feel confining on multiple levels.
“There are days when I just don’t feel like working. And that’s okay. Being a freelancer I can take a break when I want to”
Apoorva breezily says as she feels a sense of immense gratitude for having the freedom to be creative as and when she pleases.
When I posed the question about maintaining a decent work-life balance, I received some overwhelming responses about how they let themselves and their health go while operating within the impositions of the 9-to-5.
“Office can be very anxiety-inducing. You just can’t slack off”, says Aadya as she recalls how pressurising the corporate system can be.
This profound reminiscence quickly translated into a thankful sigh of relief as she remembers how she doesn’t have to perform to the deadlines someone else sets out for her anymore. She enjoys being able to work around her own deadlines.
Similarly, Annie couldn’t stress on the notion of looking after your mental health enough. “I think everybody should look after their mental health“, she replies when I asked her if she thinks people in the creative fields need to be a tad more careful about this.
“There are days when you’re not in the right frame of mind but corporates would expect you to deliver regardless”, Annie says as she emphasises on the significance of looking after your mental health.
In talking to all these inspiring women during a particularly hectic work week myself, I couldn’t help but nod vigorously when Adya mentioned how freelancing just gives her more emotional stamina.
In talking to so many women who choose to chart out their work day according to the highs and lows of their creativity, I understood that creative flow cannot be forced.
If your job depends on your creative output, “it just makes more sense to be flexible in your work day”, says Aadya.
When talking about creativity with Apoorva, she joked how inspiration can dawn on you at any given moment. She gets candid as she speaks about her designer-peers who are in demanding jobs and how a major part of their job descriptions is just looking after and tending to excel sheet schedules.
Yet another advantage that most of the women actively mentioned was that working with different clients gives you a diverse learning experience.
You’re interacting with different people, each with a distinctive set of requirements and you’re expected to cater to all those demands as uniquely as possible. This is a great learning experience.
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The Challenges Of Being An Independent Working Professional
But like most things in life, it’s not always sunny skies and rosy rainbows.
“While there is independence to make my own day and decide what it looks like, I’m not always sure where my next paycheck is coming from”, says Prerna in summing up her challenges as a freelance writer.
“What’s one thing you miss most about 9-to-5 and one thing you’re glad you’ve gotten rid of?” I asked. Everyone was glad to get rid of nagging bosses, pressure-inducing deadlines or the lack of work-life balance. But the one thing that was missed most was the certainty of a paycheck at the end of the month.
It is, after all, a big responsibility to be responsible for yourself.
I’ve been working from home since March. It’s been around six months since and I don’t think I’d ever like to work from home ever again.
So it was only natural for me to ask, more out of sheer curiosity than anything else, “isn’t it difficult to work all by yourself?”
It most certainly is.
As I pose this question to Neha, she laughs and says, “I miss gossipping with my work friends.”
Being digital marketers, both Neha and Shivani mention how interacting with their peers was their biggest way of keeping themselves updated with the market.
Digital marketing as a field is something that’s incredibly dynamic and tends to undergo several updates, new introductions, new products, new guidelines, etc. on a regular basis. And now that they’re not working in a team anymore, all of that secondary research becomes primary. Something that they have to figure out all by themselves.
Similarly, Shreya Tembe, a part time freelance graphic designer says
“the lack of a team means the lack of constructive feedback. Designers need critique and a regular flow of feedback to help them grow so being in a team helps that way.”
And Annie, being a designer herself, seems to echo a similar concern.
Through most of my conversations, I could gauge that this sense of loneliness and feeling cut off from the world at large is something that all independent working professionals go through at some point. “It’s always good to be able to bounce ideas off one another”, says Annie as she talks about the importance of finding a supportive community to keep you motivated.
The Freelancers’ Favourite Debate: Boss Vs. Clients
Which one do you think is worse?
If I were to speak judging by my sample size, I would have to say the boss. This question invoked a range of responses. Some detested both, some thought of one as a necessary evil and some favoured one over the other.
But yes, the client does seem to win at this one.
As Aadya puts it, “the boss will always have more power but the client is an equal.”
People like being their own boss. It’s because of this, coupled with the fact that most people like not having someone to report to and enjoy the freedom to chart out their own days, that the boss loses.
Finding Your Cheering Squad
Working in isolation can be detrimental on many levels. And through the course of my conversations with these independent artists, I realised why the existence of a supportive community is conducive to your growth as an independent working professional.
Charting out your career path, constantly being on the hustle and creating your own career destiny on a daily basis can get exhausting. But the good news is that you don’t have to do this all by yourself.
Creative exhaustion is real. And one of the most efficient ways to combat it is by meeting like minded people, finding ways to connect productively, and build relationships that can help you and your career grow.
So this independence day, as Kool Kanya commemorates independence from 9-to-5, join us and come be a part of the Kool Kanya Marketplace. Start your journey as an independent working professional and acquaint yourself to the new reality.
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