Life as a freelancer: The pros and cons
Freelancing. It seems like the dream career, right? No boss, no schedule, and no office. Well…while part of that is true, there’s more to the story. Like anything in life, freelancing has its own ups and downs. Its advantages and drawbacks. If you’re in the industry, you know what I mean. If not, or you’re on the fence…read this first!
The pros of being a freelancer
Freelancing can be wonderful…I agree. Hey, I’m a freelancer myself, and there are many luxuries that I personally enjoy. What are they? Well, that’s what I’m about to tell you…
Flexibility of choice
By flexibility, I mean things like choosing your clients, your projects, and the general niche you’d like to work in. For example, as a freelance writer, you may decide to specialize in blogging or copywriting projects. Alternatively, you may specialize by niche, and target the health and fitness industry. In the end, it’s really up to you.
You also get to choose the hours you work. While some prefer working 20 hours a week, others may want to work 60, or somewhere in between. Once again, it’s your call. You can even do 60 one week and 20 the next. It’s all about managing your time effectively and getting the work done.
With experience, you can also become selective with the projects you take on. For example, if a client is not paying you fairly, you can, and should decline. After all, you’re a business owner and not an employee. Always remember that.
Points to keep in mind:
- When starting out, it’s not a bad idea to take on lower-paying clients. This could help you build a stronger portfolio. With experience though, you should definitely lift your price.
- Yes, you can be selective…but bear in mind that certain niches or projects will pay more money. Just something to think about when making decisions.
We all want to take control of our lives, right? I mean, who wouldn’t like the idea of being able to work anywhere or anytime? That’s just another perk of freelancing. If you’re a morning guy, you can work early on. If you tend to focus at night, then you can work then, too.
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Most times, you’ll be location independent, too. That means you can pretty much work anywhere you want. Fancy the Starbucks environment, then so be it. Prefer the comfort of home? Well…your sofa can be your office.
- Try to find the place and time which you are most productive in. Then, build a habit to work during that time.
- While freelancing is mostly remote, it’s still important to network and meet people in person. Not only does it build trust and friendship, but it’s another door to potential clients.
Evade the rituals
As an employee, you usually have to set up your alarm, get dressed, and drive to work every morning. You might get stuck in traffic along the way. After all, most people are making that same journey. And on the way back, it’s the same story again.
When freelancing, you don’t have to go through any of that…in most cases, obviously. So not only does it save you the hassle, but the time and money too. You could be saving an additional 10 hours, not to mention $50 of gas, every single week.
Points to remember:
- Never waste time or money. In these extra hours, why not work on the administrative side of things? With the extra money, why not put it into your savings account? After all, it’s best to be prepared.
- With the flexibility you have, try to be there for your family when they need you. For example, you could pick up your children from school or spend more time with your spouse. Trust me, when you’re happy at home, you’re happy at work.
Control your income
When you’re working for someone, you have a set salary or hourly rate. That rate is usually fixed or falls within a specific range (if you’re in sales for example). As a freelancer, you not only have control of your income, but you also have the opportunity to earn more. Let me explain…
First, let’s mention that earning more comes with experience. When you grow as a freelancer, you can start subcontracting to other freelancers. That way, you make a cut from all the work they do. You can also charge higher prices, utilize multiple income streams, coach others, and so on, and so forth. The options are endless.
- At some point, you’ll want to scale. You may decide to take on more projects, subcontract to others, or even sell your personal coaching. Whatever your goals, make sure you hit them one at a time. Otherwise, you could end up running around in circles and not accomplishing any of them.
- Scaling requires time and effort. When you first start, you’ll probably be earning on the lower end. But when you provide value…and wait patiently…your time will come.
I’m not sure if I should call these “nightmares” or simply realities. Because while freelancing is great, there are certainly some drawbacks to consider. Here’s what I mean…
Cash flow is important. We all have bills to pay for…food to put on the table…and even time we’d like to enjoy. Many beginners fall into scams where they do the work, but receive no payment. Others do the work, but receive their payments late.
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As a freelancer, you need to work your budget accordingly. Some clients will pay you instantly. Others will pay you weekly, monthly, or even quarterly. It’s good to build relationships with your clients, to sign contracts with them, and to agree on payment dates. That way, you know when to expect your money and both sides are protected.
- When working on projects, make sure you request half or full payment upfront. This helps prevent scams, ensures you are paid on time, and helps you manage your finances.
- Consider creating a legal contract between you and your clients. This protects both sides, and usually ensures you are paid on time.
The number one nightmare for any freelancer is having a continuous source of clients. Why? Because without clients, you can’t get paid. In fact, many freelancers stumble on getting that first client.
In the same vein, you’ll be challenged with finding high quality, recurring, and trusted clients. Often times, you’ll also be competing with individuals willing to work for a fraction of your cost. In that sense, try working with clients who understand your value and are willing to pay for it.
- Focus on retaining clients rather than continuously looking for new ones. First, that means spending more time on payable work. Second, you already understand their needs and style. In that sense, you can perform the work faster.
- As a freelancer, you have to be proactive and pitch your services to potential clients. Not only are you creating opportunities for yourself, but you’re also cutting the competition and increasing your chances.
As a freelancer, you’re self-employed. That means many things…First and foremost, it means there is no guaranteed paycheck. Sounds scary, right? But it also means that no one is telling you what to do, no one is counting your hours, and no one is checking that you’ve done the work. If you don’t do it, you simply won’t be paid.
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Often times, you’ll be juggling multiple clients. And when nobody’s monitoring you, you’ll see how easy it is to get distracted. Things like your phone ringing, your TV, and your social media updates…they’ll constantly be nagging you. Then there are the noises and the distractions from people around you. Really…to succeed in this game, you have to stay on top of yourself.
Managing your time:
- When working, try to rid yourself of any distractions. They simply suck your time and interrupt your thought process. Also, inform your household that you need some quiet time.
- When scheduling clients, make sure you understand the workload and that you can fit it into your schedule. Never take on a client if you cannot afford the time.
Wearing multiple hats
Freelancing is not just about freelancing. You’ll be juggling different balls and wearing different hats. Like any business owner, you’ll be responsible for marketing, invoicing, contracts, troubleshooting technology, making tax payments, and a bunch of other tasks.
Apart from a learning curve being involved, a lot of these tasks are administrative in nature and don’t make you any money (at least directly). You only make money when you’re working on projects. And even when a project is finished, you might have to go back for edits, which takes more of your time.
- It can seem overwhelming when you realize how much you’re responsible for. Just take it in baby steps. Don’t think you have to master everything right from the beginning. You’ll figure it out along the way.
- When starting out, consider taking on fewer projects so you get a feel of the workload involved. Once you get a grasp of things, you can slowly increase the workload.
Is freelancing for you?
So…does freelancing still seem like the dream career? To be honest, it’s just like anything else in life. It has its ups and downs. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Some people just prefer the stability and security that a regular job provides. Others prefer the flexibility and lifestyle that freelancing offers.
What about you? Do you have any personal experiences you’d like to share? Are you looking to transition into the freelancing frenzy? It’s a tough ride, but an enjoyable one too. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Great article Omar! I think every freelancer should reference this article at some point in their career! Even a seasoned freelancer can re-evaluate their processes from time to time.
thanks for ur post
i have shared it on my facebook
Awesome collection all are very useful, thank you for this post Great article
id like it
As a freelancer myself, one of the biggest cons is the ‘feast or famine’ work schedule. (It’s very stressful either way.) Plus, most website design firms are constantly keeping up with new technology and a freelancer simply can’t compete design-wise. We can only compete price-wise.
While working on your own has many pluses, one down side is that working remotely (and the isolation) keeps you from learning from your environment. In the fast world of the internet, it’s important to keep up to date with technology and a good part of the learning comes from your co-workers.