If the freelancers’ life is attractive to you, with its own hours, no commute, work in your pajamas image, you’re in for a surprise (as I was). There’s more to freelancing than meets the eye. While it does save you on gas, time, and wardrobe expenses, freelancing has its down side too. There will be dry spells and bills will pile up. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Here are some things I learned about freelancing which I found out the hard way.
1. Nobody will tell you your worth.
You have to figure this out for yourself because sharks abound in the freelance waters and will eat you up. Do some research on your skills, rates, and the type of work you’ll want to focus in. If you’re just starting out, set a rate you’re comfortable with and work at enhancing skills. As a writer, I started out writing $3 for 500 word articles. I was happy, until I learned the true value of my work, and then I became happier still.
2. Do what you love is a cliche associated with freelancing.
Choosing only to do what you like doing is easier said than done and devalues hard work. If you love to read, are trained in grammar and syntax, critical of other peoples’ written output, then you have the makings of an editor or proof-reader. But being an editor does not stop there. There will be hard days when you’ll want to throw in the towel. The truth is, your passions are not static.
3. You’ll meet god-awful clients.
They’ll shortchange you, worse, disappear without paying you, there are those who’ll insult your intellect, your gender, your education, and your race and will judge your worth according to his limited perceptions. An understanding of cultural differences helps, so does knowing where to draw the line. Walk away from these energy sapping beasts and focus your attention in seeking clients who are reliable, honest, and ethical.
4. Work-life balance will swing one way or the other.
There is no balance if you can’t stay on top of your task and have a time management system in place. Forget about watching TV all day or sleeping in until 1 PM (only works with clients from specific time zones). Just like working in the corporate arena, there will be deadlines. There will be family emergencies and sudden trips, natural disasters and unreliable Internet connection. You’ll have to juggle all this and remain standing with a smile plastered on your face, and your reports submitted before the deadline.
5. You are your own taskmaster.
There’s no one to push and prod you, or mentor you, take stock of your performance etc. You have to do it by yourself, and do it with cold unfeeling scrutiny. And you have to have a hard shell because it’s humbling to accept your shortcomings, but the beauty of it is that many freelancers are autodidacts and self-starters. With the abundant resources online, it’s easy to self-train and propel yourself to reach higher goals, or learn skills outside of your interest.