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#WomenCallAction: Freelance Life


Women Call ActionDear Rachel,

I’ve recently left my full time job in order to dedicate myself to my filmmaking career, but I’m having a hard time figuring out my new freelance life. Any suggestions?

Signed, Sleeping too late


Dear Sleepyhead,

Welcome to your handmade life. It’s rewarding but has some challenges. Organization and discipline are key to making the freelance life work for anyone and getting up early and using your day effectively is the first step, one which you already self-diagnosed. In order for this kind of career to work you must treat your workday in the same you would if you were working for someone else. Don’t only get up early but get dressed! No hanging around in your sweats or PJ’s all day. Take a shower, do your hair, act as if you’ll be around others, even if you’ll be alone 24/7. And for god’s sake – brush your teeth!

The same goes for your work environment. Your home is now your office presumably. Make it neat so that you can work efficiently and get yourself a file cabinet, drawing board, or any other tools you may need to keep your paperwork at your fingertips. If you’re a parent and kids are in and out of your place, then use school hours to maximum effect or get some childcare and carve out a space where you cannot be easily found by a little one.

If screenwriting is part of your new life then discipline is essential. I suggest you write every single day, and for me, writing in the earliest hours, when my brain is fresh and still connected to my subconscious, is key. Try not to judge too much if you’re having an off day. Just write no matter what. Exercise is also paramount. Some people find that when the separation of office and home is gone, other dividers, like the gym – go by the wayside. Even if you can’t afford to keep up your gym membership, you can afford to take a 60-minute power walk 5 times a week and that’s what I would suggest for anyone working at home all day. I also highly recommend that you turn off your email and your cell phone for blocks of time, or those distractions will prevent you from delving into meaningful work.

Another challenge about the freelance life is knowing when to end the day. We creatives love to get swept inside our imaginations, but it’s essential to stop and see other humans from time to time. Make sure you go outside, share a meal and a laugh – connect with someone or something else than you work. Of course, there will be those times that you are on a tear, working all day and night until you complete a new project, and that total absorption is part of the pleasure of your new life, but don’t let the intensity suck you dry. You will need to replenish your juices, so take breaks, nature walks, go out to see the work of other artists. The freelance life is not for the faint of heart because it requires that you act as both the employer and the employee. Enjoy your freedom and good luck!

Rachel Feldman

About Rachel Feldman

Rachel Feldman is the 2015 NYWIFT Ravenal Grantee for directors over 40 working on a 2nd feature - for LEDBETTER, an Athena List winner, about the remarkable Fair Pay activist Lilly Ledbetter. Rachel also won the 2015 WGA Drama Queens Award for spec pilot THE UNDERNEATH, optioned by Maria Bello’s Ground Seven Entertainment. She has directed movies and episodic television for ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, FOX, The CW, SYFY, LIFETIME, DISNEY CHANNEL and TEEN NICK and written movies for Lifetime and ABCFamily. An ardent activist for women directors, Feldman was a prime mover in the recent ACLU actions, has chaired the DGA Women’s Steering Committee, and has taught directing and screenwriting in the MFA program at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. She received her MFA in Directing from NYU, and her BA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College and Parsons School of Design. Her grad thesis film won Best Short at The New York and Chicago Film Festivals, later sold to HBO, Showtime and PBS. Feldman has received filmmaking grants from The AFI, The Jerome Foundation, Kodak, Technicolor, and Panavision’s “Filmmakers To Watch”.