When I first decided to go freelance, I had a perception of what i’d thought it would be like. I thought i’d be jetting off round the world every 5 minutes to remote work, that working from home would be fab, that clients would just come naturally if I was patient but all my preconceptions were totally wrong. Whilst some things about freelancing are more difficult than they appear others are better than you’d thought and yet some you would never have even thought about before.
For those out there who are thinking about taking the jump themselves, I’d like to give you the absolute truth about what it’s like to work for yourself as a freelancer, so you are fully informed when you make your decision.
1) It’s Impossible To Switch Off & Take A Break
Goodbye Mon-Fri 9-5, Hello Mon-Sun 24/7. Even if you say “I’ll only work 9-5PM today” you’ll still be checking your work emails at 1am, trust me. Because when you manage your own work, income and clients, you get attached and want to be there for them. Take a top tip, DO NOT email your clients outside of your normal working hours because they’ll start calling you on a Sunday at 9pm expecting you to be available.
2) Working From Home Full Time Is Only Cool For The First Month
I love working from home. I can get out of bed when I want, stay in my PJs all day, eat whatever, whenever I want. However, I put on weight by not having a routine. So, tip no.2 get in a proper routine, have meals at the right times and less snacks. I also found that the walls started to talk and I’d go for days without seeing anyone. It is healthy to go outside, keep up your social life and go visit your clients because you are a social being!
3) Managing Your Own Accounts Sucks
Sending invoices is super easy, tracking your time and knowing what to invoice for is the hard bit. I use a programme called Toggl to track my time and another called Wave to do all my invoicing. Once you’ve sent your invoices, chasing clients for money if they don’t pay isn’t fun. Half the battle is building a client relationships so chasing them for cash is one way to destroy that. They might have signed payment terms with you, but in the end, if and when they actually pay is what matters. If they don’t pay you, don’t work with them.
4) You Actually Have To Actively Go Out And Get Clients
I am a digital marketing specialist, so in theory my website should be an oracle in google search results. However, most people will take you for a job if they like you personally rather than if you have a jazzy website. People employ people. The word of mouth is still the most powerful way to engage with potential new clients.
5) The Irregularity Of Work Is Stressful
You’re never really sure when your work is going to come in and this can be stressful if you have bills to pay. Even if you’re like me and have recurring monthly clients, when I book a holiday I worry they wont want me back if I’m not available for a period of time even if that’s a few weeks. Last time I booked a holiday I took my laptop away and worked…not quite the idea.
6) You Quit Having 1 Boss & Gain 10 more.
Don’t think that you wont have a boss anymore. You’ll have lots of them! Each client is like a mini-boss and you’ll probably have a love-hate relationship with at least some of them. Communication is key. Try not to get frustrated. If you’ve spent hours writing a blog and they hate it or they’re chasing you for social media conversions yet have sent you no content, take a breather, relax and remind them about your expectations of one another.
7) There’s Always Competition
There will be other people doing what you do, with more experience and more knowledge who may make you feel inferior. Imposter Syndrome is very common especially for those who put a lot of pressure on themselves and I’m one of those. Find yourself a support network ASAP. For me the team at Pallant Digital and connections at The Last Friday Club has really helped me with confidence but i’ll be working on it for a long time yet. Just remember, everyone has to start somewhere.
It’s not all doom and gloom. I absolutely love being a freelancer and don’t misunderstand, I’d never trade it in for the employed life! Here’s why.
1. Let’s Stop Being British About Money For A Second
In exchange for insecurity, the money is better if you are freelance. Life becomes manageable on less working hours a week. Of course the aim is to fill your 40 hours (or however many you’d like to work because that’s totally your choice) but if you don’t, it isn’t a disaster.
2. Setting Your Own Working Hours Is AMAZING
When you get that 4pm “I cba right now”, you can just stop and make up the hours another day. You can also attend medical appointments, visit your gran, take the dog out for a walk or whatever you do, without having ask for permission. It is no ones business but your own what you’re up to.
3. The Option To Remote Work
I’d love to give the Digital Nomad life a go, jet off on my travels and work at the same time. Due to my freelance skill being digital, this is totally possible and whilst i’ve not done that (yet!) it is still an option I wouldn’t have if I was employed. Maybe we will see in the future if I make it across the world.
4. You Get To Meet Lovely People
The support you can find in your community is incredible. When you’re lonely, if you need help or want connections, help is always on hand. Twitter networking hours are also great for finding support without leaving your desk and despite me thinking that other freelancers would be my competition, they’ve become my friends and my support network.
5. You Can Say No
It’s your business and your income so therefore it’s your decision who you take work from. No longer do you have to accept everything you’re given or work for people you don’t get on with. Be selective, work for people you like and on projects you can feel passionate about.
6. Get Some You Time
Freelancing gives a work-life balance that you can’t get anywhere else. Take some time for you as and when you need it. No longer are you only allowed a measly 28 days holiday a year and wave goodbye to core hours, your time is your choice so make the most of it.
So should you go for it?
In the end, you have to make your own decision about whether freelancing is for you but make a decision that makes you happy. I’ve given you my pros and cons, you can find your own! Whilst there are many frustrations of freelancing, it is a great world to be in with the right people around you.
This year I will be celebrating my first anniversary of taking the freelance plunge. Going forward, I am really excited to see what this year will bring. I hope to expand my skillset, grow my confidence and continue to meet lovely people. A massive thank you goes out to everyone at Pallant Digital, Debbie Ford, Claudine, Emma, Dec and Dan who have been beacons of support throughout my transition to freelance. As always, if anyone requires any kind of digital marketing support, please get in touch and recommend me to your friends!