Caution: What Freelancing Is Really Like

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Are you tired of working for “the man”? Or maybe you’re just fed up with searching for the ideal job that doesn’t seem to exist. Whatever your reason, you’ve stumbled across this post because you’re considering the option of freelancing.

Before you jump in head first, I want to share with you a few things you should keep in mind when it comes to freelancing, based on my personal experience.

  1.     Flexibility is key.

In the freelance world, being flexible is a must. Gone are the steady, reliable days of employment. When freelancing, you may not know what’s to come from one project to the next. This is why you will need to be flexible at times, taking on opportunities that may not be ideal, but provide you the experience and pay that you will need.

Personally, I had to work really hard at flexibility when I started freelancing. After having worked for almost a decade in the standard 8 to 5 job, it was quite an adjustment. Sometimes I went for days without winning any new projects, and other times I was so overloaded with projects that I thought I would never get the work completed in time. But I worked really hard, stayed focused, did my best, and eventually learned to go with the flow and take the work when it was available.

During the slow times, especially when first starting out, I took on a lot of freelance opportunities at a lower rate of pay, or accepted opportunities that were not ideally what I wanted. The flexibility to be open-minded about the types of projects I accepted early on helped me to gain more experience and client reviews, which all contributed to me receiving better suited and better paying opportunities later on.

  1.     You will have a lot more responsibilities.

Remember the days when you clocked in at a certain time, did what you could do during that time frame, and went home in the evenings? My guess is that you were paid on time, received some form of benefit coverage, work supplies, and a place to do your work. Did you ever think about how each of those things were organized or purchased?

As a freelancer, you are it—the finance, customer service, production, marketing, and sales departments. It’s all on you now! You will be responsible for many different tasks that you never thought much about as an employee of a company.

My experience in freelancing taught me a lot about the responsibilities of being self-employed. Things that I had never done before were suddenly a part of my day-to-day responsibilities. Many of these new tasks were unfamiliar to me and were a bit outside of my comfort zone. Creating contract agreements and service proposals, billing clients and setting fair rates that were not overpriced or underpriced, are all some of the areas that I struggled with in the beginning of my freelance career. With a lot of patience, research, and willingness to ask other freelancers questions, I quickly acquired these skills.

  1.     You have to be your own sales rep.

As a freelancer, if you don’t know how to sell yourself and your services, you should consider attending sales courses. Self-promotion is a big piece of freelancing and it can make or break your earning potential.

With my previous background in recruiting, this skill was not as difficult as I expected it to be. The biggest challenge I faced in this area was how to find opportunities that I could sell myself to. With freelance groups online and YouTube content, it wasn’t difficult to find and try out some of the resources that others were achieving success with.

  1.     The person you’re freelancing for can still call the shots.

So, you thought you were going to be your own boss and no longer have to report to “the man”? While it’s true to a certain extent, you will still have someone you need to answer to—your clients. When you take on freelance assignments, you will be required to answer to how someone wants the work completed and you may even need to adjust your work methods at times.

This was difficult for me to grasp ahold of in the beginning. I was self-employed, my own boss, calling the shots—right? Not quite. I quickly learned that if I wanted repeat customers and five star recommendations, I needed to be flexible and accommodating to the needs of my clients. Sometimes this meant adjusting my hours of work or even adjusting the way I typically did business.

  1.     You might not have to work as many hours…eventually.

Have you ever known someone who was a freelancer and you just couldn’t pin down their actual work schedule? This is quite common in the freelance world. Most freelancers are not working a standard 9 to 5 schedule. As a matter of fact, many freelancers have the freedom to work fewer hours, leaving more time for travel, family, and hobbies. You can do this too, by being smart about your fees, time management, and finances. However, you may not get there in your initial days of freelancing.

For me, starting out as a freelancer was not easy. Once I had a good client base, I started seeing repeat business, but in the beginning it required a lot of hours and hard work in order to get those clients. It’s true that once you get some freelance experience under your belt and get into a groove, you can work shorter hours. Now, it’s not unusual for me to work steadily at my freelance business for a few months and then take a month off to do something different.

I have been a Freelancer for the last three years and I can honestly say that I prefer freelance work over permanent employment. It offers me the freedom and creativity that I desire—the freedom to earn money at something I enjoy, while also allowing time for me to work creatively and focus on my passions. That’s not to say that freelancing is right for you. Freelancing, like anything, has its ups and downs.

Do you have any experience freelancing? If so, please share your experience and tips in the comments below.