Friday, August 10, 2018

Things No One Told Me About Freelancing


I've been a freelancer for over six years, and for about four of them I've been fully self-employed. I do a range of things, but as of right now I freelance in these areas: photography, writing, graphic design, social media coaching. Each area comes with its own unique aspects (and challenges) but there are a few things I wish I would have known before I stepped into them.

Not all of them are negative - thank goodness - but some are. I don't share these to warn you away from freelancing in any of these ares, but I hope this post could be informative and helpful for those looking to freelance.



Things No One Told Me About Freelancing 


It's not always fun

What? *Gasp* Work isn't always fun? Okay, so maybe you've guessed this already. Like with any job there are the high points and the low points. While I really enjoy what I do, it's not always a bed of roses. I think the key here is that if you don't enjoy most of your work, perhaps you need to reevaluate.

It's freeing (FREElancing, get it?) 

I cannot tell you how much I love the aspect of being my own boss. For those who freelance in their spare time you may not feel quite as much freedom as this, but knowing that you can work around your own schedule really is awesome!

It takes a lot of time to be profitable

I think this is more true on the front end of it, but setting up a business, finding clients, and working until you can earn a "good" (aka live-able) wage takes TIME. Maybe it's just me and my experience, but I did not start making the kind of money I wanted up front. Also, you have to consider the business aspects of it. Monitoring expenses, paying bills, getting equipment/programs you need for the business, marketing, social media, taxes...the list of things you have to do when you become self-employed is rather large. You may not need to worry about that if you're just freelancing on the side, but it will take time to get up and running, so factor that in.

You may not get to write/photograph/design what you love (all the time) 

So, this may be a bit more of a personal one, but (for me at least) I found that I could be most profitable writing in a genre that is not what I love. I also don't always get to design book covers in a way that I want, but in a way that the client demands. And I don't always get to photograph in easy situations or with "easy" clients. That's part and parcel of running a business. Yes, it is possible to get to a point where you're only doing things you love (think of highly specialized freelancers) but I'm not at that point yet so...until that time, I get to experience working in a way that stretches me. Most of the time I find that I am thankfully for this and the experience.

It's fun being your own boss - and terrifying 

I LOVE that I get to be my own boss. I also hate that I can't really take time off like you can at a 'regular job' or that I have to figure out my own health care and such. There are benefits and downsides to it, but freelancing has allowed me flexibility that I couldn't have with any other type of job and that makes it totally worth it.

It's a LOT of work and takes discipline 

Maybe this is a "duh" statement, but one of my #1 cautions to anyone wanting to be a freelancer is that they consider whether they can be disciplined about it. Will they be able to get up and write/photograph/design what they need to in the time they have?  Will they be able to make deadlines? (I definitely struggle with this sometimes.) Will they be able to do the other things that are necessary to having a business on their own? If so, then freelancing as a career may be something to consider.

Taxes stink....

UGH. I can't tell you how much this is true. I also can't emphasize how important it is to do the research required to know what you need regarding taxes. Get a CPA if necessary, but know your business. Know what you can write off and keep track of it. Know when to file and how much it will be (aka estimated taxes). Know how to do everything legally. If not, ask someone who does and it will save you a lot of hurt on the other side.

It can be lonely 

This is just me being real. When you freelance, it can get a little lonely. Yes, you can likely take your work wherever you need to and that's a big bonus, but sometimes you sit at home (or wherever) and you just need to get the work done. It's just you and whatever project your working on. It helps to connect with other freelancers on line, work at coffee shops, and make sure that you get out of the house, but the work part will often require some alone time. Know that beforehand.

Clients make (or break) the experience 

My oh my. This is probably the most important thing I've realized since I first stared freelancing. I've been with some of my writing clients for almost 4 years now and that is because they are AESOME! That hasn't been the case with every client. It is so important to know what it is you offer and to work with people who want that. If you can't deliver to their standards, respectfully step away from working with them because it will only cause you heartache and extra time. I'd suggest working with some clients on a trial basis until you can agree that you are providing them with what they want and the time you are spending on their projects is worth it for you.

Time really is money 

I'll leave you all with this last one. I've heard this, but didn't really know how true it was until I started working for myself. I noticed it most dramatically when I would do editing or plot creation for clients. I'd charge one fee and then find out later that all the extra hours I was adding in made it so that I was making less than minimum wage for that project. Not all projects are best priced by hour, but some are. Know how long it takes you to do something and charge accordingly. That may mean that some projects are a flat fee while other are per hour, but either way you must know if something is "worth" it to you. This isn't harsh or arrogant, this is business.


I get a lot of questions about how I started freelancing and things like that and I hope to share more about that process and the aspects of it here on the blog. If you have a question you'd like me to address, feel free to contact me using the form in the sidebar. I love hearing from readers and would love to address what would be most helpful!


Are you a freelancer? Can you relate to any of these things? If not, are you considering freelancing? What area would you like to work in?  Share in the comments below!