Freelancing – how it really is!

Living the dream! Oh wait, that seems to have past me by!

Living the dream! Oh wait, that seems to have passed me by!

Happy National Freelancers Day!

It’s a great life! There I am the leggy blonde, soaking up the sun in paradise, paid for by the fruits of my relatively easy labours and working on my next project. Yeah right, in my dreams!

So let’s get real. If you’re a freelancer or you’re self-employed, you will be familiar with the daily grind of working for yourself and if you’re contemplating giving up your regular salary for exceptional spoils and calling your own shots, you are in need of a reality check which I will happily supply.

1) You’re your own boss

Technically, yes, but never forget you are at the beck and call of your clients and sometimes they even have the audacity to call at once.

2) You earn more money

Your have to steer a line between charging what you’re worth and being competitive which isn’t as easy as it sounds. Your day rate may well be more than your salary, but you have to be vigilant about saving money for the tax bill as well as spending out on everything from phones to stationery and even a car which would have been supplied by your employer.

Payments are not regular. Feast or famine, as my dad, who has also spent much of his working life self-employed, keeps reminding me. There’s no monthly payment to rely on yet your mortgage and other household bills still need to be paid every month. What’s more, accounts departments will treat you as a company and not a person with the same outgoings as an employee so expect 30 to 90 days payment terms.

Sometimes I have pleaded with clients to pay because my tax bill is due or I have a school trip to pay for, and it is rather infuriating when employed friends give me well meaning but irritating advice. ‘Send them another invoice and add on 10% for late payment’ ‘tell them to pay up or you won’t work for them again’, that’s just great but I would like to keep my clients. Inevitably, someone at some stage just won’t pay up!

And don’t underestimate the amount of admin you will need to do from invoicing to chasing payment as well as prospecting and putting together proposals, not to mention your own marketing like social media and blogging, all essential to your long term success, but none of it billable time.

3) You can pick and choose who you work for

Of course, you can, but most freelancers never say no. Most of us are so paranoid that we won’t receive another commission that we never turn anything down. After almost 10 years as a freelancer, I still have the end is nigh thoughts when I am not frantically busy.

4) You work the hours you want

Again, you can, but a deadline is a deadline whether you’re employed or self-employed and if a client needs something PDQ, then you will still be working into the early hours.

5) You’re well out of office politics

It’s true you’re out of the immediate line of fire, but your work will still be impacted by office politics only you will have little or no influence and you will need to be mindful of always remaining neutral.

6) You no longer have to work with annoying/smelly/boring colleagues

It can be a lonely existence and there will be times you will miss the comoradity and support of your colleagues as well as having people to fall back on when you need an extra hand and you will suddenly realise how invaluable those brainstorming sessions were as you gaze into space and it appears inspiration has deserted you, probably forever.

7) You can get the housework done

That's more like it!

That’s more like it!

Admittedly, I sometimes put the washing on or prep part of the dinner, but if you are serious about earning a living you will have to put the hours in and other members of your household, namely, your partner needs to remember clients do not commission you to complete your household chores in a timely manner and to a high standard.

8) I can work in my PJs

You can work in the buff if you want, but chances are you will still have to undertake regular daily routines like the school run or opening the door to the postman. Whilst you will be delighted to leave behind the chore of picking an outfit everyday, even if your company has a relaxed dress code, and not feeling the need to plaster on a bit of slap is liberating, days on end of joggers, out-of-shape jumpers and lank hair can become a bit depressing.

9) You get to spend more time with your family

Achieving a greater work life balance is often the reason cited by would-be freelancers as they contemplate turning their backs on their jobs. And, yes, you can go to the school nativity or take a trip to the zoo during the school holidays or nip out to the school to collect your inconveniently sick kid without the faff of clearing it with your boss first and politely ignoring the raised eyebrows of childless colleagues. But that project still needs to be completed, those accounts need to be finished and that article still needs to be written. You will find yourself juggling just as much and my kids (mistakenly) believe that all I do is work; sometimes I have been late picking them up because I took a client call 10 minutes before I had to leave and there have been times when I have been on deadline and (shock, horror) they had to cook dinner!

10) You can lunch without clock watching

Yes but the deadline clock doesn’t stop ticking and beware of friends and family who make the mistake of thinking that freelancing means you have endless amounts of time on your hands so you can take granny shopping or host impromptu coffee mornings for those ladies who really do lunch (if you’re a genuine freelancer, that’s not you).

So why do you do it?

Because it’s a great life and I would have to be either totally destitute or be made an offer that really could not be refused to be persuaded to give it up. Quite simply, I love freelancing for all those reasons I have outlined above! Oh yeah, and because there’s no daily commute – there was no reality check about not sitting in traffic for hours on end, day in, day out.

Happy Freelancers Day and here’s to many more (hopefully) to come!

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