In our fast-paced, tech-savvy, creative day and age, there’s nothing revolutionary about being a freelancer. Head to any cafe in the middle of the day and you’ll see hoards of us; seeking solace in escaping the isolation of our own four walls and enjoying being surrounded by others at work too, even if we’re all plugged into our laptops and not uttering a word to each other.
I took the plunge over a year ago, and it’s honestly the best thing I ever did—but it’s not without its challenges. Here are 5 things I wish I had known about being a freelancer, before—y’know, actually becoming a freelancer.
1. Structure is everything
When you utter the word ‘freelancer’ in the context of the working world, I’m convinced that a lot of people instantly conjure an image of working from bed all day in their pyjamas in between naps and an endless stream of tea and snacks. And don’t get me wrong, while there is the flexibility there to have these days once in a while (i.e. the sick days that you don’t get paid to take so have to soldier on through), the overwhelming majority of the working week is spent chained to a computer because whaddaya know—we have deadlines that have to be met.
If I had a dollar for every person that has said to me “I don’t know how you do it—I couldn’t work from home I’d get nothing done”, I’d have a shiny stash of dollars piling up next to me; but my answer is always the same. It’s no different from being in an office in the sense that there’s work that has to be done, and so I have to do it. Especially as a writer, my deadlines are often within the day; so I can’t just opt out of work when I feel like it. Freelancers are still accountable; we just don’t have a physical boss breathing down our necks on a daily basis.
2. Get clear on what you want to achieve
Why did you become a freelancer? For me it was about striking a better balance between work and life, having more flexibility and being able to work smarter, not harder. If it’s about money for you, that’s cool—it’s just important to know your ‘why’ and come back to it every time you’re approached for services.
3. It’s not for everyone
It can be a lonely road, this freelancing gig. Even as someone who considers themselves a huge introvert and who loves spending time on their own, I sometimes find the freelance life a little lonely. There are days when my partner comes home from work and I realise I haven’t actually spoken to anyone all day—so I launch into a torrent of conversation just because I’ve missed human interaction. A lot of people don’t realise how much they value the hustle and bustle of a traditional office setting until it’s gone; and for some, sacrificing it is too big a price to pay.
4. Know your worth
As a one-woman show, potential clients will automatically assume that they can get your services on the cheap. While of course there’s nothing wrong with offering low or discounted rates, knowing your worth is integral to succeeding as a freelancer. Without it, you’ll end up taking work that doesn’t serve you or your purpose, and not reap the financial rewards either.
5. There are downsides
While it might seem like an enviable position to be in—and don’t get me wrong, it is—there are a host of downsides that come with being a freelancer that you don’t necessarily think too much about before taking the plunge. For starters, you have to wear additional hats alongside the career you’ve chosen—like being your own accountant and ensuring you save enough money each month for your taxes, alongside managing your own superannuation/retirement fund AND factoring in the fact that no one’s going to pay you for work that you don’t do—i.e., no annual leave or sick pay or quota for unspecified personal leave.
Despite this though, the good outweighs the bad. The control you get to take over your own career is something that is really inspiring; and you get to choose the work you do and look at what you’ve created as your own.