Despite all the jokes about working from home with no pants on, there are upsides and downsides to starting a freelance career. Making the choice to become a freelancer can be daunting. Like any job, there are perks and tasks you’d rather not be doing. For me, freelancing allows me the flexibility of working on numerous projects at one time in tons of different fields. Somedays I’m a blogger, web designer, copy editor, writer, and social media manager all in one morning. My skills are diverse so I’m able to apply them to many different things. Here are some of my pros and cons for working in the wide world of freelance.
Freelancing allows you to develop your own schedule that fits your needs. As long as the work gets done, it doesn’t matter what time of the day you’re doing it. Are you a night owl that does your best thinking around 10pm? That’s not a problem with a freelance schedule. Maybe you’re a stay at home parent with family responsibilities at different times around the year. Freelancing allows you to adjust your schedule whenever and however you’d like as long as you’re meeting deadlines.
Freelancers work from home offices, in co-working spaces, at coffee shops or even from other countries. Digital nomads are freelancers who travel the world while working online. Communities of freelancers are springing up all over the place with Chiang Mai, Thailand being one of many popular destinations. Some freelancers use the freedom of location to move from space to space exploring new cities along the way. Similarly to being in control of your flexible schedule, freelancing can be done from anywhere with a wifi connection.
You are your own boss
Freelancing is all about freedom of choice. You’ll have clients that dictate aspects of your job, but you will not have a micromanaging boss standing over your shoulder. You get to decide who you work with, where you work and what projects you take on. You also get to renegotiate your contract with each individual project. This allows you to be flexible and garner more pay raises, negotiate benefits and introduce your own style into the work you’re doing. Being your own boss allows you to avoid the pitfalls of office politics and doesn’t tie you down to permanent working relationships with colleagues you may not work well with or like.
Freelancing allows you to retain some control over where you focus your energy. As a designer you may choose to focus on one aspect of design for awhile and at a later date switch to a different product or focus. You can do that because you’re calling the shots.
Having flexibility in your schedule allows you to focus on things outside of work. Maybe you have a hobby or passion project you love or you’re coaching your kids’ basketball team. Freelancing gives you the opportunity to consolidate the work parts of your life and get more out of the play parts of life.
What they don’t tell you:
When you freelance, you own your own business. A large portion of a freelancer’s time is spent managing the business aspects of freelancing. That might including networking and finding leads or that could mean doing the accounting and marketing of your services. Freelancing is a constant balancing act of working on current projects and finding new leads. Freelancers need business management skills in order to keep a constant flow of clients and to maintain proper records.
Feast or Famine
Freelance work ebbs and flows throughout the year. The instability leads to a surplus of work at some points and a shortage at other points. Having excellent budgeting, saving and general money management skills is paramount to being a financial success in the freelancing world. You never know when your car will break down or when you’ll need to buy an extra tool for your business. Failing to prepare for the ebbs and flows can create a really stressful lifestyle.
Not having a boss is both a pro and a con. You have all the freedom in the world, but you also have to accomplish your goals. Freelancers have to be self disciplined in their approach to their work and put structures in place to manage their time effectively. Self-motivation is always a bit harder than being motivated by an outside source.
Inconsistent Pay Outs from Clients
According to the Global Workplace Analytics Survey 80% of freelancers said they’ve done work for a client and did not get paid. The average loss for the freelancer was $6,000. That’s a lot of money for anyone, but especially for someone who has their income ebb and flow throughout the year.
Lack of a clear direction
Freelancers forge their own paths. While path forging offers lots of freedom, it can be difficult to organize your process. Unlike trade professions, there is no set path for proceeding in the industry. Sure, there are guidelines, but there isn’t a clear direction. For some freelancers, this feels like freedom and for others it’s terrifying to make your own choices and decide which path to take.