“You're a what?”
It often happens that when I say I work as a freelance writer, the response is an awkward silence or an expression of befuddlement or, if I´m lucky, amusement. Then I say, “I'm a journalist,” and all is well with the world.
But freelancing is becoming more and more of a popular option for those who want to avoid the 9-5 cubicle routine. And with the recent economic turmoil, companies are finding it cheaper to hire someone on a contract or project basis, especially since they don't have to give you benefits. The work from home option is becoming more attractive for those who wish to save the world by cutting out the commute to and from work or for those who have young children at home. If you're a freelancer, or “location independent,” you can not only work from home, but choose to work virtually anywhere, including cafes, parks or even on the bus. Luckily, most cafes in Prague offer free WiFi, but if you end up sitting there for hours, be sure to order something every once in a while. And if you plan to work at the cafe regularly, definitely leave a decent tip.
Freelancing is an option for a number of different occupations, including writers, web designers, IT consultants, translators, online tutors, graphic designers, photographers and counselors, just to name a few. Austrian native Cris Rieder , who has lived in Prague as an expat for eight years, and works as a freelance counselor and web designer, says, “I always tried my best to live and work on my own terms, so freelancing--being independent, being my own boss, choosing what and for whom to work--was the only way to go. No question about that. I am lucky to have two (freelance) businesses that represent both the right and the left side of my brain. My intuitive/feeling side and my logical/technical side. So I stay right in balance.”
Rieder doesn't think there is too much of a challenge in being a freelancer in Prague, because of the strong English-speaking expat community. “Many of them [are] established here for a long time and are in well-paying jobs. This is a perfect clientele. Maybe it took a while to get the word out about my work, but word of mouth is the best advertisement in my eyes. Since I am mainly working for English-speaking clients, I don't experience much of a language problem in my work.”
Paul Pacey , a native of Toronto, has been working as a freelance photographer in Prague for four years, although he admits that photographers in Prague are “a dime a dozen. It's so easy these days for someone to buy a digital camera, and overnight, they're a photographer. Even large clients are often inclined to hire someone who has little experience just because they are inexpensive.”
But he still believes that the positives of freelancing far outweigh the negatives. He especially enjoys the variety of photo opportunities, but adds that the social aspect of being a photographer forces “an otherwise home-body like myself” to go out and connect with interesting people.
Pacey, like Rieder, finds clients via networking and word-of-mouth, adding that it “doesn't matter how good your website is or how many email campaigns you do. Building business here starts with meeting people face-to-face and maintaining a good reputation. Often, the best way to get work is simply to do work.”
Pacey's advice to those looking to freelance in any field? “Simply...get out there and network as much as possible. Aligning one's self with strategic partners who can act as a conduit to more potential clients is also quite important in maximizing one's exposure,” he says.
Co-working is a great new way for freelancers to get out of the house and recover that sorely missed social interaction and water cooler gossip from your cubicle days of yore. This trend is sweeping the globe, recently arriving in Prague in the form of shared workspaces and co-working “jellies;” freelancer meet-ups at a local cafe for a full day of work. You can rent a desk or a meeting room for a few hours or a few weeks, or just join a jelly from time to time to mix and mingle with others who know what it means to be a freelancer. Some co-working organizations in Prague include Hub Prague , Locus Workspace, The Works, Coffice and Creators .