Thoughts on Freelancing

An answer to a question posted on LinkedIn.

View Maria Langer's profile on LinkedInI was sifting through my e-mail in box this morning and found an update from LinkedIn. It’s the usual update that tells me what my contacts are up to. I saw that one of them had answered a question in the LinkedIn Answers area. It was a question that interested me:

Are most of the freelancers doing what they are happy to do?

The question went on to ask why we chose to be freelancers and, oddly enough, whether we’re “keen” to be freelancers if we have a full-time job. (Must be a Brit; don’t know anyone who uses the word keen that way.)

The question reminded me that there are a lot of non-freelancers out there, peeking at us from over the tops of their cubicles. They like what they see — people working their own hours and being their own bosses — but they don’t quite understand it. They think they want to be freelancers, but if they’re smart — like this guy is — they’ll do their homework first. His questions told me that he was just starting that homework. I wanted to help him get it done.

I logged into LinkedIn and offered the following response:

I started my freelance career in 1990 and haven’t looked back.

I like the idea that I get paid for what I do, not whether I fill space in a cubicle every day. I work harder now and get more satisfaction than when I had the big corporate job with the corner office.

Sometimes I work my butt off to get a job done on time. Sometimes I have multiple jobs requiring my attention. During these times, I work far more than 40 hours a week. But I’m getting paid for doing REAL work. And I’ll get more work based on how well I get each job done. I earn my pay and my job security.

When there’s nothing lined up that requires immediate attention or I’m taking a break between projects, I have the freedom to take time off and do the things I want to do. In my very flexible spare time, I learned to fly, I take road trips, I goof off. If a friend calls with an idea to spend the day and there’s nothing important on the front burner, I go. That makes freelancing worth it.

But there’s no such thing as a weekend anymore. If a job needs doing and the only day to do it is on Sunday, I work on Sunday. Simple as that.

You ask if we’re keen to be freelancing if we have a full time job. Don’t fool yourself — freelancing can be a full-time job. And don’t think about a freelance job if you have another full-time job. Isn’t your life more important than working 60 to 80 hours a week? Instead, let a freelance career replace a full-time job. Use it to improve your life, not make more stress.

But be prepared. When you’re your own boss, you’ll quickly learn the importance of getting the job done and making the client happy. If you screw up, there’s no one to blame except you. And there’s no one to rescue you, either.

Freelancing is not for everyone. If you’re a chronic procrastinator, stay in your cube — you’ll starve if you can’t deliver. If you’re afraid to sell your services or products, you’ll never make it as a freelancer. (There’s always something to sell and someone to sell to, even if you need to sell to the person who will sell for you.) If you think freelancing means a lot of free time without a boss looking over your shoulder, you got that wrong. The client or customer is the boss and you’ll probably work harder as a freelancer than you have in any other job you’ve ever held.

Is it worth it? I think so. But then again, I never did have patience for the 9 to 5 grind and its pointless office appearances.

(If telecommuting is available at your workplace, try that first. You’ll have the same regular paycheck and benefits and the same work but you won’t waste hours a day traveling to and from a central workplace office. Your quality of life simply has to improve — especially if your daily commute is more than an hour each way.)

Got something to add or perhaps a more specific question? Please use the Comments link or form for this post to share them.

3 thoughts on “Thoughts on Freelancing

  1. Excellent points, all, Maria. I’d like to add a few more, and add a few “me too” comments. (1) Health insurance: imperative, but expensive. If you don’t have a spouse or SO whose insurance plan will cover you, you’ll have to buy your own. (2) Gas/driving: huge gas savings here, not to mention wear and tear on the car. My mileage has been cut by 78% and my gas consumption averages 1 tank every 4-6 weeks instead of 1 tank every week. (3) Paychecks: You have to hustle for jobs. No jobs–no paychecks. Your income will vary wildly. I took a 75% cut in pay when I became self-employed. (4) Social: the biggest thing I miss about working in an office is the social contact and the mental stimulation. (5) Freedom: one of the biggest benefits of freelancing! Freedom to wear comfortable clothes, to take my pets to “work” with me, to sleep in after a late night, to take a day off when the whim hits.

    I could go on, but I have a job to do, so must get back to work. Which brings me to my last point. (6) Play time: being able to drop in on blogs and leave comments. *g*

  2. Well, said, Maria. Seems to be rather timeless, doesn’t it? I felt that way years ago when I became a freelancer (1996), and I still feel that way (end of 2014). Freelancing isn’t for everyone, as you also wrote, but for those of us that work well this way, we can thrive in all kinds of ways, not just with our work.

    I’ve done the corporate world as well. I learned a lot from it and that experience helped me in countless ways as a freelancer now. At the same time, there’s no going back for me, either. I thrive and am so content being self-employed.

    I write this as I’m sitting cross-legged in my jeans, long-sleeved t-shirt and socks, TV on behind me, dog asleep under my desk chair. I worked all morning, and this afternoon I’ll be in my kitchen making a huge batch of soup and roasting turkey breasts — early prep for next week’s Thanksgiving.

    This is the best life… for me anyway. :-)

  3. You and I have the same mind on this one, Shirley. I’m glad for my time in Corporate America because it gives me something to compare my freelance life to. I’d never go back. I think freelancing is the best way to make an honest living — being paid for what you do rather than for taking up space at a desk and punching a clock. I love the ability to integrate my life into my work.

    Yes, it’s not for everyone. But for people like us, it’s best life imaginable.

What do you think?