Who doesn’t want to be self-employed, enjoy a flexible schedule where you can plan last-minute vacations, and create a life that other people dream of living? Sounds pretty good, right? Working in your pajamas from the comfort of your own home, without a supervisor glaring over your shoulder, are a few more perks and there are no words to express the beauty of avoiding rush hour traffic (can I get an amen?). There is more to freelancing than meets the eye, however, and this lifestyle is fraught with both advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few things you should know about freelancing for the next time your bossmakes you want to jump ship and set off into the sunset behind your own sail.
There is no set schedule.
Freelancers don’t follow a 9-5 schedule, and although this can be amazing, it also has its drawbacks. More times than not, we work around the clock in a frenzied attempt to meet deadlines, build our craft, and find more work. Lunches and breaks can easily be forgotten until our stomachs (not-so-gently) remind us that they need to be fed, and it’s possible to fall asleep at our home work stations. On the other hand, it’s worth it when you can buy groceries while the store is slow or when you’re en route to a tropical paradise and your friends are in the office.
You have to hustle to get work.
We are not the only people who do what we do and the job search doesn’t end once we find our first gig; actually, it’s just the beginning. Someone out there has more experience and/or is willing to accept lower pay. And companies won’t start beating down our doors the moment we decide “I want to be a freelancer!” (it would be nice!). Job security and steady income streams are rare; many companies only need one job done or look for short-term agreements. Once you’re a freelancer, you also become a marketer with one very important subject to promote: yourself. Before diving into this lifestyle you should ask yourself if you’re willing to go the extra mile to keep your head above water. Why should Company A hire your services instead of those from Company B?
It’s best to set a rate and stick to it.
Friends may ask to “pick your brain” and proceed to give you a task that you normally charge a fee for. Companies will also try to pay as little as possible, even suggesting that they will move elsewhere if your fees don’t match their expectations. Before going along, remember one thing: if you don’t respect your time, effort, and talent enough to set fair standards, no one will.
When beginning as a freelancer, agreeing to lower pay and pro-bono work will help build your portfolio. After some time, however, it’s best to sit down with a calculator and a computer and be prepared to crunch numbers.
Tax and social security payments need to be planned in advance.
Workers in the 9-5 grind don’t think about taxes until it’s filing season and they’re deciding which trips to plan with their beautiful return. As a freelancer, the opposite is true; it’s important to set money aide and be ready to pay the government at the end of the fiscal year. Spending each paycheck as it arrives is a common mistake made by new freelancers; remember, no one wants to dip into their savings or begin a drastic payment plan come February. To avoid an uncomfortable surprise, it helps to send a percentage of each pay check to a separate bank account and pretend like it was never yours.
Some freelancers go days without seeing another person.
Between finishing paying jobs, looking for new work, and becoming a specialist in your field, you may even forget what your own voice sounds like (especially if you live alone). Gym memberships and team hobbies can help break up the daily routine and maintain social interactions.
When done right, freelancing helps us develop a work-life balance.
Once we fall into the routine that works best for us and sell our services for a fair rate, we’re able to fit in time to see friends, enjoy hobbies, and even take on extra work; in short, freelancing can help us achieve the ultimate professional goal: a work-life balance.