By Wilma Bedford
More and more big companies have started scaling back their teams because it’s cheaper to hire freelancers. Moreover, the Covid-19 pandemic has inadvertently created a “new normal” where working from home has become the norm and those who may have lost their jobs or out of sheer boredom because of being “locked down” started or continued a new hobby that turned into a business success story, resulting in them becoming freelancers and heading for a new future.
However, freelancing is far from easy and not everyone is built or fully equipped to do so. How hard freelancing is for you may depend on your personality, working style, and how well you tolerate uncertainty.
The pitfalls of freelancing
– Your income will go up and down, often unpredictably
Some freelancers call this the “feast or famine” cycle. One month they might have so much freelance work, they’re struggling to handle it all. The next month, that work has dried up. This is the balance all freelancers face: working enough to prepare themselves for the down periods.
– Your expenses may go up
Although you won’t be paying to commute, you may well find that your expenses go up. If you need a new laptop, a new chair or any software or tools for your freelancing, it has to come out of your profits.
Depending on what you already have, and the type of freelancing you plan to do, your expenses could end up being a huge chunk of your earnings – at least in the early months.
- No sense of security
Several factors contribute to this. Finding clients is hard, the competition is fierce, and it’s hard to stand out sometimes. The result is that you’re afraid to turn down projects even though you have too many already because you don’t want opportunities to pass you by.
You sometimes worry about rent because you have literally nothing going on.
– Work-life balance
The ultimate irony of freelancing is that you jump into it thinking that you’ll finally have more free time, but in reality, it gets harder to switch off and take a break. Working from home causes the line between work and life to get blurred and you end up mixing the two.
It’s really easy to keep working when you really should shut down your computer and turn in for the night. And because you know work isn’t always steady, you’re putting in extra work and hours to ensure a solid savings fund.
- Managing yourself
With no boss looking over your shoulder, getting tasks done on time requires a greater deal of self-control. Scrolling through YouTube or watching a Netflix movie may seem much more attractive than finishing that report, article or design.
There might be more admin than you expect. You are working on your own and suddenly you’re an accountant, administrative staff, networker, scheduler, marketer, salesperson, and project manager. All of these won’t contribute directly to your bottom line.
- Difficult clients
Clients can be great to work with or a living nightmare. They may be unclear about what they want but expect you to deliver the correct product, have problems and excuses regarding your payments, or even don’t pay at all.
- It can be lonely
You might find it hard to focus without the social interaction that you’re used to. Not having to be involved in office politics or drama could be a blessing, but if you’re used to having colleagues to chat with during the working day, freelancing may seem lonely and strange. This may be more difficult for extroverts than introverts, but even hardened introverts may eventually have enough of their own company.
- Taxes and insurance
Employer benefits and tax contributions are non-existent in the freelance world. Freelancers either have to do it themselves or hire an accountant. You will also need to arrange your own health insurance and set up your own retirement savings. Make sure you know what’s available and that you know how you’re going to handle health insurance before you quit your job.
- It can take time to grow your freelance business
Most businesses aren’t an overnight success. Getting to the point where you can support yourself and your family takes time. You need to have a steady client list, be able to manage your workload, stay organized, and be capable of weathering the bad times.
The perks of freelancing
– Make money doing something you love
One of the biggest perks of freelancing is getting to spend a huge chunk of your workday doing something you love, instead of having to face a boring and stifling job every day.
- Be your own boss
When you become a successful freelancer, you’re fully in charge. You get to decide which projects to take on and you may turn down clients you don’t want to work with. You even get to give yourself a pay raise. Once you’ve established a good pool of satisfied clients, you can easily set your pricing higher.
– Set your own hours to suit you and your circumstances
This is a huge advantage of freelancing, especially if you have kids or caring responsibilities. Of course, you have to chose whether you want to keep clients happy by taking on urgent jobs which might require long hours or burning the midnight oil. These you make up for with “free” time when it’s possible to do so.
You can also schedule your work for the hours when you’re most alert and productive.
You’re not tied to normal 9-5 hours, but you can work those 9-5 hours if you want.
– Work from home (or pretty much anywhere you want)
In 2020, people all around the world ended up working from home. The perks are that you can set up your workspace however you like, listen to whatever music you want, and even take a mid-afternoon nap.
– Only work with people you actually like
In your freelance career, you are rid of irritating co-workers, a boss who is always monitoring you and endless meetings. Unpleasant clients can be fired. You can even actively seek out clients and businesses that you really want to work with.
Earning money through a freelancing job is challenging. But it can bring you great profit if you come up with a viable strategy and work accordingly. If you are eager and passionate to start your freelancing career, stay calm and stick to your plan. You will reach your goal eventually.
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