Making your own schedule. Never fighting rush hour traffic against your will. Working wherever there's an internet connection, like your favorite coffee shop or a hotel room by the beach. Doing things your way. Being your own boss, in business for yourself without slaving away for someone else's wealth.
Becoming a freelancer has its share of perks, but there's another side of the story that's rarely told. It's not all sunshine and roses working for yourself. Those of you who have already jumped into freelancing have likely had a few wake-up calls along the way.
This post isn't meant to discourage anyone from following their dreams, but you should consider all sides of the freelance world before quitting your day job.
Here are 5 things most people won't tell you about becoming a freelancer:
You Don't Answer to One Boss...
...You answer to multiple ones. Regardless of the type of work you're doing, you're only successful if you're selling something. To some freelancers, you'll be selling a service, such as marketing or web design. For others, you'll be selling your expertise (think coaches, consultants, etc). Or you might be selling physical or digital products, such as online courses or handmade goods.
Whatever type of work you're doing, you'll have to answer to your clients. They're the ones responsible for your paycheck now, and you must do everything in your power to appease them.
You might discover that some clients are even more demanding than your old boss. Even trickier, they all have their own preferences, personalities, and expectations you'll need to meet.
All Costs Are on You
This one may seem obvious at first, but you need to dial in on what this really means.
When a printer messes up or your computer crashes, you're forced to absorb that cost. When clients don't pay their bills or contracts get canceled, you're responsible for the lost income. Paying for things like postage, printing, collateral, web hosting, software, apps, and other standard expenses can rack up quickly, especially for freelancers on a budget.
The money aspect alone can be quite scary to think about. Don't let it steer you away from the idea of freelancing, though. Just have a little put back for worst case scenarios, and continue building that fund as you go. One day, you'll thank yourself.
The Benefits Aren't That Great
One of the biggest wake-up calls for new freelancers is how much their former benefits were really worth.
If you got a week or two of paid vacation, sick days, insurance, and a 401k match, guess what? Those things don't exactly exist in the freelance world.
Sure, you were paying something for your insurance, but your employer was likely paying a bigger chunk than you were. Now, you're forced to cover both sides of that payment.
That doesn't mean you can never take a vacation or sick day, though. Many successful freelancers have modeled their businesses so that even a missed day of work won't result in a lost day of income. This is ideally achieved through using a subscription-based or per-project model, rather than an hourly rate.
Getting Clients Can Be Tricky
Attracting clients as a freelance isn't so easy, especially if you're just starting out. Freelancers must work extra hard to build a solid reputation in terms of quality of work and ability to serve.
Because freelancers don't have the same resources as a larger business with a full team and a multi-year history, you may feel inclined to cut your prices to woo customers. This can be a good technique to build up your business, but it shouldn't be a long-term solution. You'd be missing out on lucrative income opportunities, plus you wouldn't be making what you feel you're worth.
In many cases, freelancers have no clue where to start finding clients. They base their business on dreams of flexibility and long-term goals, but have done little to set in motion what it will take to reach those goals.
(By the way, that's what Freelance Speak is all about - helping freelancers with every aspect of their business, including ways to find clients. Stay tuned.)
Freelancing Is Hard Work
On many occasions, you'll find yourself working harder than you ever did at your old day job. You're doing the work of several people, from business ops and management to marketing to sourcing to technical stuff to networking and more.
At times you'll want to give in and go back to the "real world" that looks much easier than it did before you started freelancing.
The truth is, freelancing is tough work. It will always be tough to some degree (because hey, it's still work), but it does get easier. And you will get better equipped to handle the freelance life if you continue educating yourself on how to build a successful business as a freelancer.