The freelance life can seem idyllic, but most freelancers would admit it’s not without its problems – even if they love the lifestyle. If you’re a wannabe freelancer or just starting out, here are seven signs that freelancing isn’t for you.
You Hate Admin
Bad news for those freelancers who have given up employment to focus on doing what they really love: you’ll have to do other stuff too.
You need to compromise your vision a little and do work that pays, rather than the exact work you want to do – and whatever work you’re doing, you’ll have to give some time over to networking, maintaining contact with clients, record-keeping, bookkeeping and all the other tasks that come with being your own employer.
Admin is a necessary evil of being a freelancer, even if you outsource tasks such as accountancy, those printer cartridges won’t order themselves, you know.
You Hate Promoting Yourself
Sorry, but if you don’t promote yourself, nobody will even know you’re there. To get work, you’ll not only have to pitch for work and/or sell your services through advertising, you’ll also have to constantly convince people you do great work – and that you’re better than the competition.
It can feel a little like attending weekly job interviews, convincing a succession of potential employers that you’re the one for the job. If you find the thought of that stressful, freelancing isn’t for you.
You Hate Uncertainty
Both your workload and your finances will be prone to fluctuation – the ‘famine or feast’ problem. If you hate the idea of not knowing whether you’ll have any work next week, what exactly you’ll be doing or whether you’ll ever afford a holiday again, stay in employment.
Some people find the uncertainty too stressful. For them, freelancing is the very opposite of a liberating experience.
You Hate Negotiation and Confrontation
Freelancers need to stick up for themselves without being arrogant. You will need to negotiate a fair price for projects you take on, always weighing up your experience, the complexity of the job and your need to cover holiday, sickness, pension and insurance costs in your fees against the desire to offer a competitive price.
And when things go wrong, and a client is unreasonable or doesn’t pay your invoice, you’ll need the confidence to confront them calmly, referring to facts and contracts. This isn’t everyone’s forte. Is it yours?
You Love the Perks of Employment: Benefits, Job Security and Job Consistency
Knowing what you’ll be working on this afternoon, tomorrow, next week. Comfortable with somebody else making the major decisions and the knowledge that they’ll take the fall if things go wrong. Calculating your Christmas bonus and pension.
Knowing you’ll have paying work next week, next month, next year. Claiming on your work insurance for that dental work. If these are things you cherish, don’t go freelance. If you do, you are in this by yourself. You may network with other freelancers for contacts, advice and companionship, but ultimately, you’re a one-person business and the buck stops with you. Shoddy or late work can be blamed on nobody but yourself.
There are no bonuses, insurances or pensions unless you’ve set them up and contributed to them. You’ll have to be flexible about the hours you work and the projects you take on; they’ll rarely be the same two weeks running. Feeling a shiver up your spine yet?
You Love Working in a Team
The photocopier’s broken, but Jan always knows how to fix it. You need to take your dog to the vets three mornings in a row this week for those expensive injections, but Matt will cover you. You’re not sure how to fill in that new form on the computer or the best way to handle the irate customer Mr X, but Sue’s always really helpful with things like that…
When you work in a team, you don’t have responsibility for a finished product or process; you work in your assigned niche and there’s usually someone to ask for help. Not only that, but there’s always someone to have a chat with; a group of people you can let off steam with at lunchtime or socialise with outside work.
Freelancing can be scarily solitary and many freelancers have gone back to employment because they don’t enjoy the responsibility or loneliness of working all by themselves. There are things you can do to combat the loneliness, but if you love the hustle and bustle of a busy workplace and the companionship of colleagues, think carefully before you give it up.
You Lack Discipline and Organisational Skills
Discipline is probably the most important attribute for a freelancer.
As a freelancer, you are simultaneously an employee with few rules and a boss who needs to ensure the work gets done. If you find yourself rarely achieving tasks you wanted to complete at the weekend or constantly leaving important tasks until the last minute, freelancing isn’t for you.
Organising your workload is vital. You need to be realistic and plan your time carefully, keeping a record of projects, deadlines, client details and payments due. You will have to pace your work and motivate yourself to get on with a task when there is nobody there to tell you how, when and where to do it.
Sick days are often harder to take as a freelancer – there’s nobody to cover and the work will still be there when you’re better; it will just be more urgent! And although there’s nobody expecting you in the office at 9, the work doesn’t get done unless you drag yourself out of bed at a reasonable hour and tackle it. It also doesn’t get done if you’re not disciplined enough to block out distractions yourself. There’s no boss to make sharp comments about the time you spend on Facebook.
Could you drag yourself away from it when your self-imposed break time was over? If you’re not a self-starter and self-motivator, forget freelancing. It’s not for you.
Of course, the freelancing life has many positives. But the test of whether you’re freelancer material is how you respond to the points above, and whether you see them as negatives. If you’re organised and motivated, that’s a great start.
If you’re confident that you can do a job well and deserve decent pay – and convince others of that, too – then you’re halfway there. If you’re also already planning how and where you’ll work, how you’ll find clients and how you’ll ensure you fit in a social life and breaks, then you’re good to go. Good luck in your freelancing career!