Starting out on your own as a freelancer is exciting. You’re making your talents available to the world, and are ready to make your mark.
While this career path can be very rewarding (monetarily and otherwise), it’s not all kittens and unicorns. There are going to be challenges and days when you wonder why you ever wanted to do this. It’s not necessarily the care-free lifestyle you may have been lead to believe.
As someone who has been freelancing for almost two decades, I’ve experienced a whole lot of ups and downs. Here’s a look at some of the joys and pains of freelancing. You know, the stuff nobody tells you about!
1) You are not your own boss
When you’re just starting out as a freelancer, you might think that you’ll have complete control over your life. If you’re working from home, you can crank up the music to eleven. You can wear whatever you want. Need a bathroom break? You don’t have to sneak past the boss, because you are the boss. Want to go play golf? Sure, nobody will notice.
But alas, you are not as much of a boss as you think you are. It turns out that, if you want to have a successful business, then your clients will dictate your workday.
I can tell you from experience that just running out to Starbucks for a half hour means that you’ll probably have a several emails and maybe a voicemail to respond to when you get back. So, just imagine the catching up you’ll need to do after a day on the golf course! Sometimes, you just feel compelled to stay at the office to avoid getting behind.
So, while you’ll have some control over your lifestyle, you won’t have as much as you might expect. That’s not even a bad thing, necessarily. It just means that you have to remember that you’re working for your clients, and there are responsibilities that come along with that.
2) You need a sixth sense for people
Let me preface this by saying that, each day, I get to work with some truly wonderful people. There are some clients who you’ll get to know on a personal level and even consider them close friends. It’s one of the great benefits of being in business.
That said, you’ll occasionally run into a person who isn’t quite the friendship type. They may not even be cordial (trust me, I have anecdotal evidence). As we know, there are all types of personalities out there in the world. Just because we’re in business doesn’t mean everyone is always prim and proper.
While I could delve into personality types and personal horror stories, this might not be the proper forum. Instead, I’ll offer you some advice:
If, after a meeting/phone call/email exchange with someone, you get a sense that you’re not necessarily thrilled with the prospect of working with them, then you might be better off walking away. While it may hurt the old bank account to turn down a project, you may find that it’s more expensive to work with someone who is volatile.
If you’re not sure about a person, do some research on them and their business. You may find that reviews from customers or other businesses can be a huge help.
3) You’ll see your kids grow up
If you don’t have children just yet, then this one may not be on your radar. In that case, just replace the word “children” with “pets” or “house plants”.
Working from home, you may just find that you’ll get to spend some extra time with your children. Personally, I get to spend a few extra hours per day with my daughter. I readily admit that it’s not always easy to balance work with parental responsibilities. There are days when it can be very hectic.
But it is absolutely one of the best parts of freelancing. On the good days, you’ll be reminded of why you are working so hard. On the difficult days, you’ll at least realize that there is way more to life than just work. Overall, it’s very rewarding and good for the soul (cue the sappy music).
4) You’ll need help
Inevitably, there will be a project or business task that will require you to seek some professional help. This may include bringing in another freelancer to help with writing code, or an accountant to help manage your finances. Even if you are an expert in all facets of your business, you still may not have time to handle it all on your own.
If you have a friend (near or distant) whom you can rely upon for help, that’s wonderful. If not, then you may have to do some networking (dreadful, I know). Joining a local meetup or business association can be very helpful, though. You might just meet some people who can provide you with that extra layer of support.
5) You’ll be just fine
As we’ve learned, there are some aspects of freelancing that can be a bit intimidating. There is, for one, a lot of responsibility to both your clients and yourself. But most things that are worth doing aren’t easy.
If you’re talented and dedicated to your craft, then you’re going to pick up on all the intricacies of running your own business over time. I can honestly say that I still don’t know everything and probably never will. But each experience can be a valuable learning tool. Your goal is to take what you’ve learned and improve both yourself and your business.