Some people, for a variety of reasons, have been forced into freelancing, while others have made chosen it entirely of their own accord. It’s an option that’s seen in just about every sector and industry. But who’s a good fit for freelancing, and who should think twice before diving in?
Characteristics of Freelancers
Not every freelancer has these traits, nor does someone need these traits to be a freelancer, but they do tend to be more common in successful freelancers than not.
- Daring: There's a certain amount of boldness present in quitting a steady day job to go after one of the most uncertain, non-guaranteed professions in the world, and it goes hand-in-hand with being innovative enough to make it work when millions can't.
- Confident: There’s no hand-holding in freelancing, and contractors have to be resilient enough to always believe in themselves when others don’t—and there are plenty of days like that.
- Organized: Gone are the days when everything was regimented. Now, the freelancer is making the schedule and has to stick to it 100%...or clients will find someone else who can.
- Communicative: Pay doesn’t appear in a freelancer’s bank account every two weeks, it’s earned and retrieved by specifying the details with clients. And to even get to the paid stage, freelancers have to be really clear with clients about the specs of each part of the project.
- Motivated: There’s no boss, punch clock or office to worry about in freelancing, which means that it’s entirely up to contractors to maintain good standards and a “steady” income.
- Assertive: Because there’s no protection, freelancers have to be firm but friendly about setting boundaries, hunting down projects, and creating their own solutions when they hit rough patches.
- Disciplined: One of the perks of freelancing is being able to lounge in pyjamas and eat chocolate cake for breakfast every day, but successful freelancers know that that probably isn’t a good idea and learn to say no to themselves.
Assuming every box on the list has been checked off so far, what are the pros and cons of freelancing? And are each enough to make the leap?
Just about every single decision is up to the freelancer: when, where, how and how much they work, who they take on as clients, what they do with their days or nights, and how they manage their money. The freedom is intoxicating, as it can feel as if an iron collar were lifted and the windows were opened.
Freelancers also tend to make more money than their regularly employed counterparts because it’s up to them to choose how much work to take on. Efficient contractors can sign up with as many clients as they want, and not be hamstrung by a 9-to-5 job in which they only get paid for a set number of hours.
And one of the best parts of freelancing is being able to say no to bad clients or work. At an office job, employees are stuck with coworkers and assignments they don’t like, but freelancers can drop them and move onto something better.
Freelancing is about as unsteady as employment gets. The feast-and-famine cycle isn’t the exception, it’s the norm. And contractors have to get used to that really quickly, as it’ll only be a matter of time before they’re facing with a period of undetermined time with no work. Keeping up morale during that period can be incredibly hard, as contractors don’t have a crystal ball to see where the next project is coming from.
Contractors also have to pick up other job skills in a quick hurry, as they become specialists not only in their own field, but also in economics, finances, tax laws, writing, web management, insurance, healthcare, labor legalities, and general business.
Finally, being a freelancer can be incredibly isolating. Contractors aren’t completely cut off from the outside world, but pretty close to it. There aren’t any coworkers to enjoy watercooler talk with, no company functions, no people to share commutes with, and no HR department to handle tough issues. Freelancers are pretty much entirely on their own, and it can be a big adjustment.
While freelancing isn’t for everyone, there are still enough benefits to make it one of the biggest job options around.