Freelancer Emma Cossey counts down the ten things you need to know about the world of freelancing
Over the last few years, freelancing has become a really viable career option for people all over the world. The internet, and all the communication tools it has brought with it, means that businesses are no longer confined to work with people who live in the local area - and has led to a flourishing freelance market of people who are able to utilise and grow their skillset.
Additionally, with a tricky graduate job market and the post-recession period, people are no longer looking for a job for life - and want a career that works around their lives rather than a life that works around their job. Freelancing means you can work while travelling, build a business around your family or take back control (perfect for the introverts among us!).
Sound tempting? There are a few things you should know first.
1. It’s not easy
One big misconception about freelancing is that it’s easier than an employed, office job. Working from home might have its benefits (no commute, no irritating Colin from accounts who refuses to blow his nose, no tricky boss), but most freelancers I know work long hours - including weekends and evenings. When you have to do all your own finance, marketing, PR, admin and sales, and the success of your business is based on your work, you don’t get coasting days. Freelancing is not for the faint-hearted.
2. It’s addictive
While it’s not easy, it is addictive. Nothing beats that high when you land a new client, get an email from a happy customer or learn a new skill. That’s because it’s all down to you! You rocked that pitch!
3. You’ll meet the nicest people - and the trickiest clients
The people I’ve met since going freelance are some of the most inspiring, empowering and ambitious people I’ve ever had the good fortune of meeting. Freelancers, generally, get pretty passionate about what they do - and that feeling is catching. You’ll also hopefully get to work with some pretty lovely clients too. On the flipside, especially in the early days when your bad client radar hasn’t been developed, you might also end up working with a few trickier types. People who don’t pay on time (or at all), have excessive demands or will never be happy. While it’s wonderful when things go well, it can be challenging when you’re faced with an unhappy client and less support.
4. Some people in your life won’t get it - and that’s ok
Look, your Aunt Julie and your more cautious friends from uni will probably spend the first year (at least) asking you if you’ve got a real job yet. Your mum might question whether you have any security and whether you’ve turned into a hermit. Others will expect you to drop everything to fit in around their lives. Then you have those who expect you to offer your freelance services to them - for free or mates’ rates. But that’s ok! You’re doing something different, and others might see it as a bit risky or flighty. As long as you’re happy and able to pay your bills, those questions will start to fall away - and before you know it your mum will be boasting to her friends about what you do!
5. Security can be found
That S word again. One of the biggest worries people have about freelancing is job and money security. Here’s the secret - the average job has a notice period of 30 days. That’s most people’s security period. Whereas freelancers can have several clients at once, on a similar (or longer) notice period. Freelancing actually means you spread the risk, and therefore could be perceived as more secure.
That said, I’ll be completely honest - there are months where clients pay late. As a freelancer, you learn to prepare for those times by saving. Freelancing makes you an EXCELLENT saver !
6. We don’t all work in our pyjamas (well, not all the time)
Another common misconception about freelancing is that you work in your pyjamas. Many freelancers prefer to work in coffee shops and co-working venues, where decade-old trackie bottoms are frowned upon. For other freelancers, working from home doesn’t mean giving up on style.
That said, on Fridays there’s a good chance you will find me in my pyjamas. It’s my casual Friday.
7. Your personal development is about to go through the roof
When you’re in charge of growing and developing your business, it makes sense that you’d invest in your own personal development. Freelancing helps you develop lots of brilliant skills, like networking, negotiating, being more assertive as well as a bundle of other skills like coding, public speaking and image editing. As an introvert, I found I was better able to develop skills that I’m not sure I’d have been able to as an employee - and turn them to my advantage.
8. You don’t HAVE to work on your own
If freelancing seems terribly lonely, it needn’t be. Many freelancers work in the offices of their clients, hire desks to work with other freelancers or work for a freelancing agency.
9. Glass ceiling? What glass ceiling?
The only limit to your earnings as a freelancer is a) what you charge b) how much you work c) who your target market is. That glass ceiling that stops so many people progressing in a company doesn’t exist when you’re freelance - you’re in control (as long as you’re prepared to work your butt off).
10. Even on a bad day….it beats 100 good days in the office
Even on the worst day, when something has gone wrong with a client, I’ve had to chase payments, and my laptop has died, I still wouldn’t give up freelancing for a 9-5 office job. I spent years as an introvert feeling like a square peg in a round hole. As a freelancer, I don’t have to.
Emma Cossey is a freelance business trainer, social media consultant and coach. She also runs The Freelance Lifestyle Coach , a blog, community and ecourse for established freelancers or those who want to go freelance but don't know where to start. She can also be found on Twitter .