On being a real artist
I’m open to where my next steps will take me, something that, for me, is a huge benefit to this freelance life.
From an upcoming project photographed on the Camino de Santiago
It’s been an intense week this week. I’ve had to get used to working longer hours again and sitting at the desk for eight of those. My back is absolutely screaming at me for it, and I wanted to go for a walk this evening but it’s been pissing down all day. It’ll be tomorrow already when you read this though, so this is a late one and a short one.
I wasn’t going to write about this until everything was ready, but I realised if I did that then I would end up putting it off forever. Due to, well, everything, I’ve decided to step back from freelance photography.
To use fancy freelance jargon, I’m realigning my business. Temporarily or permanently, I’m not sure yet. I’m open to where my next steps will take me, something that, for me, is a huge benefit to this freelance life.
I’ll be moving into freelance social media consulting and management while hopefully still working on my personal photography projects where I can. Social media formed a large part of what I used to do in my previous work pre-freelance, and I got pretty good at it over time. When I was going freelance, I often thought about making it into another offering, another arm of my creative business. Mostly everyone will tell you to spread your income out when going freelance, but unfortunately I didn’t get to it in time. Fortunately, it’s still a possibility. Remote work is something I’d been looking at pre-pandemic - I wondered if I could find something consistent and comfortable that would allow me to earn while on the move, which ultimately is what I want. Now, it’s something I must do.
Despite the relaxing of the rules here in the UK, because of my situation I’m still distancing as much as I can. More than most others, I think. That includes turning down most of the work because the risk just isn’t worth it.
What I wanted to write about is not just the fact that I’m doing this, but the fact that if you find yourself needing to do this, then it doesn’t make you any less of an artist. It’s a privilege to be able to work and make art without any responsibilities or financial worry, and there are many who don’t have that privilege. I’m in a good position to even be able to do this right now.
There’s this strange concept, though, that you need to struggle - financially, physically, emotionally, mentally… - to commit your every waking moment to your art, otherwise you’re not a “real” artist. This just isn’t true. If you need to work a completely unrelated or unartistic job for a while, or forever, it won’t make you any less of an artist. I say this especially to those at the beginning of your creative journey, students about to graduate, freelancers struggling to keep afloat - don’t sacrifice your mental, physical, financial wellbeing or anything else with this false belief in mind.
It might even be that, if you’re struggling, time away from what you’re doing and mental space is exactly what you need. Sometimes a creative passion won’t translate well into freelance work, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Focus on you, your own needs, and what works for you.
“I’ve found myself waiting for the sun to go down, timing my walks so that I can be outside then, when the bats begin to swoop around the oaks and the mosquitoes hum around my face. It’s not the golden hour (which occurs about an hour before the sun touches the horizon), it’s the periwinkle window.”
“Following an epilepsy diagnosis which prevented him driving, Norwegian journalist Torbjørn Ekelund hung up his car keys for the last time and starting walking instead.
He found he adapted really quickly, didn’t miss his car, started thinking about time differently and enjoyed the slower pace of life and the way he saw the world now he walked everywhere.”
“Through my family album, I found out what life was like for first-generation Pakistanis in Britain and this was fascinating for me to see. I connected with my heritage, and when I would see photographs of women in my family, particularly my mother, I was intrigued to see the way she dressed and what their home looked like when she emigrated to England. “
Hey! I’m a freelance portraiture and documentary photographer in Croydon, south London. Community and culture are the cornerstones of my work and I enjoy telling stories about adventure, the outdoors, and our relationship with the natural world.
I also run of the land & us, an online journal for photographers exploring people, places and living.
‘Notes on Freelancing’ is my attempt to make becoming a freelance creative a bit less scary by documenting my own journey.
If you like what you read and would like to donate a strong cup of tea, you can. This twitchy-eyed creative will thank you for the support and the caffeine.