To many people, operating as a freelancer or a remote worker might seem like the ultimate dream job. What’s not to love about working from the comfort of your own bed while you’re still in your PJs? You can wake up whenever you want and work however many hours you wish on projects that you yourself have handpicked. At least, this is the general preconception many have about freelancing.
In reality, though, freelancing is not all sunshine and rainbows, because, after all, you’re still working a job. The freedom it offers has its unbeatable perks, but there’s much more to the life and daily challenges of a freelancer than first meets the eye. Here’s everything you always wanted to know about working as a freelancer, including the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of this increasingly popular work trend.
Having the flexibility to work at any time of the day is one of the greatest appeals of freelance life. After all, not everyone can perform at their peak during the restrictive 9-to-5 schedule of a traditional office job. Some individuals are their most creative selves at night, whilst others prefer to tackle their tasks in the wee hours of the morning before the rest of the world wakes up.
With that being said, however, it might be difficult to go completely against the grain if everyone in your social circle works a corporate job or you have a large family to provide for. You still have to conform somewhat to other people’s schedules (whether that’s the itinerary of your friends, family or even your clients). And you also need to set up a concrete work schedule each day so you can hold yourself accountable and complete your projects before the deadline starts creeping up on you.
The Option to Work from Anywhere
Another fantastic aspect of freelancing is the possibility and the freedom to work from anywhere you want. Whether that’s a hammock on a tropical island, a desk at a coworking hub or a small office nook you’ve put together in your own home, this is undoubtedly one of the greatest perks of working as a freelancer.
But while working in your pajamas from the comfort of your extremely cozy bed might seem like a dream come true, it’s not actually a productive place to complete your tasks. Work and home life need to be separated in order to keep a healthy balance, so you should find a designated place which can become your home office, a neutral spot which doesn’t serve as anything other than your place of work.
The Hardships of Starting Out
Whilst people tend to think that once you announce yourself as a freelancer work just starts pouring in, this couldn’t be further from reality. In fact, it’s quite difficult to win any types of projects at the very beginning of the freelancing journey, since you have no experience.
That’s why those looking to switch from a traditional job to a freelancing career should consider building up their client base first. Starting out with a side hustle besides your regular 9-to-5 job will give you a glimpse into the freelancing life as you slowly showcase your talents and get enough feedback to encourage other people to hire you in the future. This way you won’t need to start from scratch when you quit your day job to pursue your passion. Working for free is also quite a common practice at the beginning of the freelancing journey, to build up a portfolio which you can later show to your potential clients.
Everyone starts freelancing with the goal of working on projects and tasks they love and appreciate. However, you might discover that not all your passion projects pay so well, or you might find some jobs in a different field which pay much better than those you initially aimed to work on. If you arrive at this crossroads, do a bit of introspection to see how much you can compromise. Would you rather take the task that pays higher rates even if it’s a stretch from your dream job, or would you rather opt for your lower-paying passion project which might not help your financial situation that much?
Being Your Own Boss
Another fantastic advantage to freelancing is the fact that you’re basically your own boss. It’s true that you may have clients you work for who can influence your itinerary; however, nobody’s actually standing by your chair and breathing down your neck to get your tasks done. There are no interruptions by co-workers, and you can plan your day in advance in the morning and actually stick to your schedule without constant disruptions.
But being your own boss also means that you are the only one responsible for yourself and for your business venture. You need to arrange your own health care, regularly keep up with your finances and decide all your next work-related moves, because there’s no employer to do it for you. This requires much more responsibility than if you were a regular employee and all these things were taken care of by the company you work for.
Since you’re required to tackle every aspect of freelance entrepreneur life entirely by yourself, you definitely need to become an expert at organizing, scheduling and even multi-tasking. It never hurts to have a trusted ‘companion’ with you (either a notebook with a calendar or perhaps an app on your phone), where you can scribble down your daily to-do list, which you can check off as you complete your assignments. The last thing you want is to forget a deadline or a meeting with a client, an occurrence which can definitely bring you a few negative points as a professional freelancer for hire.
Inconsistent Work Flow
The freedom of jumping from task to task or client to client can be quite liberating, because there’s a variety of options available to keep your work interesting. But even once you’ve gotten into the rhythm of racking up clients, you can still suddenly find yourself jobless after the completion of a project. There’s no guarantee you’ll score another lucrative job just because you’ve been freelancing for a while.
To avoid such situations, you might want to diversify your client base to always have a few different sources of income and new projects from various clients at all times. This way, you can ensure a regular work and income flow for your business to stay afloat amidst the cutthroat competition.
Improving Your Skill Sets
One way to stand out from the ever-increasing crowd of freelancers is to continuously keep up with industry trends and changes. You can stay on top of your game by going to local seminars and events where you can learn new things about the field you work in and maybe get together with people who might even become your clients in the future.
If nothing educational is happening in your home town, you can still improve your skill set by opting for online courses. There are a myriad of free webinars available online for entrepreneurs to widen their horizons and grow their expertise. You can also ask for feedback from your clients and try to better yourself by taking their advice into consideration.
Although there are plenty of advantages to freelancing, it’s hard to reach the same amount of job security as if you were employed at a company. As a freelancer, you can’t really take off from work if you’re feeling sick one day before a deadline. You also don’t have any paid vacation time, or maternity or paternity leave. You don’t enjoy other employee perks like company-sponsored health care, retirement accounts or eligibility for unemployment benefits. You personally need to take care of all these aspects yourself in a different way in order to benefit from them, which can often prove to be tiring and challenging.
Is Freelancing Really for You?
As you can well see, there are a myriad of factors which accompany the fact that freelancing can be quite awesome and liberating. Just like everything else, it has its disadvantages which should never be overlooked. If you’re thinking of trying out freelancing for yourself, you should first set up a safety net to fall back on if things don’t work out the way you want them to.
Get yourself prepared for uncertainty and challenges—you will definitely face them along the way. But even as adversity hits you, keep going and do what you like and do best. Give way to your passions and work hard at becoming an expert at what you’re good at. If you’re persistent in your growth, serious in your work and professional when dealing with clients, your freelancing career will surely blossom.