HOME-WORK: THE PROS & CONS OF FREELANCE LIFE
Being my own boss was something I always dreamed of, but never thought would actually happen. Working flexible hours, determining my own worth, and not being forced to conform on a daily basis certainly seemed appealing… What no one told me was that in addition to the good bits, there are still a few downsides to freelance life.
THE GOOD STUFF
You decide how you spend your time.
If you’re not a morning person, being woken up by a screaming clock probably doesn’t do it for you – it certainly doesn’t do it for me. One of the major perks of freelancing is setting your own hours, and working when you’re at your most productive.
You determine what you’re worth.
Well, within reason. Knowing your industry and where your skill level sits can be tricky at first, but with a bit of trial and error you’ll soon arrive at an hourly / daily / whatever rate that works for you and your clients. If you’re a newbie, expect to work for low rates or even for free as you build up your portfolio, then once you’ve gained more experience you can gradually increase your rates.
You get variety.
Working with lots of different clients in lots of different industries means, variety! I can’t think of anything worse than doing the same thing every day, so having the opportunity to flex my brain keeps my sanity intact, for the most part.
You meet lots of interesting people.
Hate networking? Me too. But even if you suck at it and avoid situations like meet-ups and communal work spaces on the regular, you will still find yourself meeting interesting folk along the way. Referrals lead to more referrals, and so on.
Your days seem so much longer.
Not having to deal with the daily commute is AWESOME, and as a bonus you save money on transport. These days I take my previously lazy ass to the gym in the mornings, which is something I never ever did whilst working 9-5.
You can work wherever you want.
How good is being able to work wherever you want? So good. A change of scenery is a great way to boost your creativity and motivation, plus you can grab an all-important coffee and some fresh air at the same time.
THE TOUGH STUFF
Business development can be super hard.
Ah yes, the evil-but-necessary sales component. Let me just say, I am really not good at sales. I hate talking on the phone, and I get extremely anxious when talking about money. Not exactly a solid equation for making all the sales. I’ve made some dumb mistakes in the past – undercharging, over-quoting etc. – but you just have to learn from it and move on.
Life gets lonely.
Sometimes I think if I didn’t have my cat to keep me company I would have tossed myself off a bridge ages ago. Sure, working by yourself is pretty great most of the time, but it would be nice to have someone to bounce ideas off occasionally. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve written something and thought to myself, “Is this a pile of complete and utter shit?”, and then sent it to the client anyway because I didn’t have anyone to ask except the damn cat. So unless you have loads of friends with flexible schedules you can expect to feel lonely at times.
You’ll always be working.
Even when you’re not working on a paid project, you’ll always find something to do: sending out invoices and following up outstanding payments, updating your website / social media / portfolio, scouting for new jobs etc. etc. If you’re working on your lonesome you need to be adaptable in order to get what needs to be done, done. And that means spending several hours each week on unpaid tasks.
You need to be super organised.
I’ve met so many people who tell me they couldn’t work from home – that they would be too distracted and never get anything done. And all I can say to that is, if you’re really going to make a go of it you just need to pretend it’s like any other job. Get up, get dressed, make a list and get on with it.
Your income is never consistent.
Unlike a nice comfy full time job, freelancing can be pretty stressful when it comes cash flow. There will probably be tears. It’s nearly impossible to sell and deliver at the same time – you’re only one person after all – so there will always be times when you’ve been consumed by a large project, only to come up for air and realise that you’ve haven’t done any business development because you were busy and now you haven’t got any new work lined up. It happens, but it’s not the end of the world.
The competition is rife.
Not matter your field of expertise, you will always be competing for work. There are literally hundreds of uni graduates out there willing to work for peanuts; people with way more experience than you; people who are specialists etc., so it’s a good idea to remember that you are replaceable. You’re not an employee, and your clients have little to no obligation to keep giving you work. The best way to avoid being given the flick? Be honest and upfront about your rates and availability, do your best to deliver the highest quality work, and of course, be a nice human. No one wants to work with a jerk.