10 of the Most Surprising Things About Freelancing

It was over ten years ago, well before I became a freelancer, but I still remember.

“I don’t believe anyone could earn decent money through the Internet.” My friend confidently stated and…I agreed with her.

Can you believe it? I agreed with her, yet today here I am today doing exactly what both of us thought could never be done. There are many things that I didn’t know about freelancing until I became a freelancer myself.

I guess the first surprise is how very possible it is to earn money as a freelancer. There are many other things that I never would have dreamed of before I started freelancing myself. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has ever faced freelancing surprises…

In this post, I’ll share ten other freelancing “surprises” that most non-freelancers probably don’t ever think about.


10 Freelancing Surprises

Here are ten things about freelancing that take non-freelancers and new freelancers by surprise:

  1. The low start-up cost. While it does cost something to freelance, the cost to start a freelancing business is usually much lower than the cost to start any other type of business. There are no franchise fees to pay, no building space to rent or buy, no employees to hire…
  2. The importance of selling. Most freelancers probably don’t think of themselves as a sales person–at least, not at first. Yet, sales is a vital part of running a freelancing business since it is how freelancers get clients. No matter how uncomfortable, all freelancers need to know a little about selling.
  3. The rate at which what you need to know changes. Even more than corporate employers, freelancers need to be on top of their field. This means keeping up with new software and hardware technologies, industry changes specific to your area of expertise, and being knowledgeable about the latest trends. If you don’t keep up, your competitor will.
  4. The strength of the online community. For most freelancing fields, as well as for freelancers in general, there is a strong online community. Freelancers tend to interact with each other through social media and online forums. They also tend to read the same blogs and online publications. If you think you won’t have peers as a freelancer, you’d be wrong.
  5. The lack of a market rate or standard. There are so many variables (such as skill level, location, experience, and so on) involved that it can be difficult for freelancers (and their clients) to know what a fair rate is. Not only that, clients (and freelancers) sometimes use almost the same words to describe very different projects. When it comes to pricing, freelancers are on their own.
  6. The fact that many freelancers can be harder on themselves than many bosses would be. Some freelancers may have left traditional employment to get away from a bad boss. While having a bad boss is no fun, freelancing isn’t always the escape that one might think it would be. In fact, some freelancers are harder on themselves than any boss would ever be.
  7. The importance of social media. Social media has gone mainstream and nearly everyone has some level of involvement in social media. For freelancers, though, social media is even more important. It’s the lifeline that connects them to their clients, potentials clients, and to other freelancers.
  8. The importance of self-discipline. When you freelance, it’s up to you to make sure that the work gets done. There’s no one looking over your shoulder or sending you reminders to keep you on schedule. You absolutely must have the self-discipline to keep working even when no one is looking.
  9. The global nature of freelancing. Another huge difference between most traditional employment and freelancing is the global nature of freelancing. As a traditional employee, unless you worked for a very large international company, you probably dealt mostly with people who are based in your own geographic area. This is not true of freelancing. As a freelancer working through the Internet, you may find yourself with clients (and colleagues) all over the globe.
  10. The lack of personal days. It’s no fun working sick, trust me on this. As a traditional employee, you probably had a number of paid sick days or personal days that you could take off each day if you weren’t feeling well. As a freelancer, however, it’s up to you to save enough money so that you can take a day off if you don’t feel well. Even with savings, you may find yourself working sick to might a tight client deadline.

Your Turn

These are just some of the things that most people don’t think about when they consider freelancing.

What took you by surprise about freelancing?