Freelancing isn’t for everyone, but for some people it offers an amazing lifestyle opportunity. As a full-time freelancer myself, the topic comes up in conversation from time to time. In the last couple of weeks, I spoke with someone who quit freelancing after a few months and someone who has pledged to keep themselves on the freelancer career path for life. Is freelancing a good fit for you?
Read on for insights from a full-time freelancer on the ups and downs of this profession.
The Big Benefits of Freelancing
On April 8th, 2016, I literally walked out the door of corporate America. After a decade in corporate finance, accounting, and banking, I quit my Senior Financial Analyst job in the pursuit of full-time freelancing.
The eight months since have been amazing, stressful, and educational all at once. But so far, the benefits completely outweigh the drawbacks. Here are some of the biggest benefits I’ve enjoyed so far.
- Work anywhere – The biggest benefit I have enjoyed so far as a full-time freelancer is the ability to work wherever I want. While working from home and remotely has some downsides, the upsides are wonderful if you have the discipline and temperament to work solo. I used to work in a co-working space quite a bit, but now primarily work from home. I also do the occasional coffee shop, brewery, airplane, hotel, library, or anywhere else I choose.
- Work anytime – In addition to being able to work on the couch or in bed, I can work anytime I choose. I take advantage of schedule flexibility to take care of errands when most other people are at work and recreation when favorite destinations are off season. I can take off a random Tuesday, enjoy a half day on Friday, or get caught up on a big project on Sunday morning.
- Variety of Assignments – I work as a writer, website developer, marketing consultant, and work on developing WordPress plugins and apps in my free time, as well. I love the variety of projects I work on. However, do note that sometimes you have to work on what a client chooses even if it isn’t at the top of your “fun projects” list.
- Unlimited Earning – When you have a job and a boss, you earn your paycheck but no more. Even if you contribute millions of dollars to your company, you can’t (and shouldn’t) expect millions of dollars in return. When you are a freelancer, you keep everything (except taxes). You are only limited by your skills, rates, and how hard you are willing to work.
- Choose Who You Work With – I have had a few clients who were not easy to work with. Unlike your employer, who is very difficult to fire, you can easily let a freelance client go without too much pain. Of course, this only works if you have a stable amount of quality clients, which can take some time to build up.
The Big Drawbacks of Freelancing
- Clients Can Leave at Any Time – Just as you have the flexibility to fire clients, clients can fire you. If you don’t produce high quality work quickly and consistently, you’ll see your stream of assignments from them slow down or stop completely. Freelancing is a contractor for hire relationship, so you can get fired at any time for any reason. There is zero job security in freelancing.
- Cash Flow is Not Guaranteed – After a stellar April and May, the summer months had me worrying about my income. The money then picked back up in the fall, but those types of revenue ebbs and flows are common in freelancing. If you don’t have a thick skin and the financial management skills (and indeed the self-control) to navigate irregular income streams, freelancing may not be the best fit for you.
- Isolation – While working in bed or in pajamas is awesome in many ways, freelancing can be isolating as well. Working from home can mean less social interaction. You will have no more water cooler or coffee pot chats, company holiday parties, or much face-to-face interaction at all. You can offset this “too much quality and alone time,” by working in a coworking space, joining a mastermind group, or going to evening social functions outside of work.
- Unfulfilled Potential – YOLO isn’t just an expression for Millennials. As a freelancer, you always have opportunities to do anything, so a fear of missing out (FOMO) or you only live once (YOLO) mentality can distract you from getting work done. On the other side of the coin, you always have work to do, so it is easy to become a shut-in and miss out on your location independent worker travel dreams.
Finding Your Balance as a New Freelancer
With multiple ups and downs, the key to a successful transition to freelancing full-time is balance. It is important to work a lot, but not all the time. It is important to remember to go out and enjoy social gatherings, but not at the expense of your work or your budget. It is good to travel, but don’t overdo it right away. Also, don’t put off travel too long, or you might forget about why you started freelancing in the first place. However, with travel as a freelancer, you will find that you can travel and work by planning out 2-3 hours each morning to work and then you are free for the day.
Like with diet, exercise, budgeting, and virtually everything else in life, finding the right balance that works for you is key to long-term freelancing success.
Is Freelancing Right for You?
Freelancing is an amazing, growing career path with unlimited potential, but it is certainly not for everyone. If you are on the fence, start freelancing part-time while keeping your day job. This will give you a chance to test the waters, earn a little bit more, and get a taste of freelancing without walking away from the security of your primary income.
Unless your job contract prevents you from doing so, there is no reason you can’t start a freelancing side hustle to try it out. Who knows, you may find yourself on track for a new career.