Many people go into freelance work with wide-eyed optimism. Freelancing. Emphasis on the free. They imagine the freedom of setting their own hours, grabbing the laptop and jaunting off to work in a trendy coffee shop, being their own boss, enjoying more leisure time, and exerting full creative control over their work. But freelancing isn’t as idyllic as many of us imagine. Sometimes, the lance aspect of the term seems more applicable. Ouch!
First of all, a freelancer needs to acknowledge that when they leave the office, they are leaving behind one vital component of a business venture—other people. The freelancer must be willing to be a jack-of-all-trades. In fact, a successful freelancer needs to be excited and energized about the idea of dipping into the worlds of accounting, marketing, and general office management to name just a few. For a freelancer, the sky is the limit. You aren’t going to be subjected to endless hours of debate and personality conflicts regarding each new turn the business might take. One mind, one mission—it can be very exciting and very efficient.
One of the aspects of freelancing that probably drives more workers back to the office environment than any other is the added responsibilities taken on by a myriad of support professionals in the traditional workplace—marketing, negotiations with clients, taking client calls, tracking and enforcing payments, to name a few.
If you are freelancing because you are a bit of a hermit and don=t like dealing with people, then you need a reality check. At the office you most likely had a system of buffers between yourself and the clients for whom you were doing the work. Someone else landed the deal and negotiated the asking price. Someone else answered the phone. Someone else sent and tracked invoices. As a freelancer, all these responsibilities will land in your lap.
Many freelancers are Acreative types—designers, writers, or artists who originally chose their fields because they weren=t the Abusiness type. Sometimes freelancing appeals to these business-phobes because they feel that they can withdraw from a business environment by going on their own. This is a very misguided assumption. If you decide to freelance, then business responsibilities will have to cut into your creative time.
An increasingly large segment of the freelance community are mothers who decide to go freelance to give themselves more flexibility to be there for their families. Unfortunately, cultural forces often exert pressure upon women to be less business-oriented than their male counterparts. They may not feel comfortable talking about money or brokering deals and often will cave easily in the negotiation process. The double whammy of being both a woman and a creative type often spells disaster for the business aspect of a freelance career.
The good news is that the experience of starting one=s own business can be an incredible opportunity for growth and personal development. A freelancer can expect to quickly increase their assertiveness, their business acumen, and their understanding of (and comfort with) money. These are attributes that will greatly empower many people, women in particular.
Working as a freelancer can be a very positive experience if you start with a realistic plan and set up a clear infrastructure to avoid hassles and confusion. You must also mentally prepare yourself for the challenges that lie ahead. If you are excited about the business end of freelancing, take the leap and remake your career—and your destiny. Therein lies the freedom in freelancing.