I have been freelancing part and full time as a web and graphic designer for over 15 years, and most days I would not trade it for the world. I love being my own boss, working the hours I choose and the joy of being around my family far more often than if I went to an office each day. The positives of my working arrangements far outweigh any negatives I could come up with, so very seldom do I ever even think about them.
Still, there are a few elements to the freelance lifestyle that I could definitely do without. In this post, I will share with you some of my least favorite parts of being a freelancer that I have come to terms with and accepted as facts of the freelance life.
No More Scheduled Payday
When I made the leap into full-time freelancing, I suddenly had to rethink how I managed my income. No more dependable weekly or monthly paycheck. No more scheduling online payments. No more guarantee that I would have a check coming before rent is due.
Saying hello to freelancing meant saying goodbye to financial stability. Although I make more money than I used to when I was working a regular job, I never know when it is actually coming in. The juggling of bills and responsibilities is a new skill I have had to learn that someday may lead to an ulcer, thanks to the increased potential for stress. I imagine this fact is a little bit easier for single freelancers to handle, but since I am providing for my wife, three kids, and myself, this is definitely at the top of my list of freelancing facts I could do without.
A Blurry Line Between Work and Off Time
For those that go to their workplace every day, there is a clear definition of the beginning and end of business hours. Even with stringent strides toward creating the same clarity when working from home, it is far more difficult for freelancers to declare when they are on and off the clock. For me personally, I try to integrate my work life with my home life rather than separate them, so this makes the discipline of defining work hours even more challenging. Many freelancers choose to have a separate office in their home, but still find it taxing to try to stay away from work when they’re supposed to. There’s just no way other than strong self-discipline to keep this line from getting blurred, and it’s one down side of the freedom of freelancing from home.
Now I’m a Salesman Too
Freelancers have to continually find ways to bring in new business. Our livelihood depends on it. So, once I began freelancing it wasn’t long before I realized I was also donning the proverbial plaid leisure suit of the used car salesman and making those sales calls. I am somewhat an introvert, and networking has never been my strong suit, but without it my freelancing business would have never even got off the ground. I’m better at it than I used to be, but it is always a joy when new clients come to me rather than me having to pound the pavement.
Those Unaccepted Proposals
How many proposals have you put time and effort into preparing, sent to the client and waited with your fingers crossed, only to learn that someone else got the job? I’ve never taken the time to look at my statistics, but my guess is that a significant number of the proposals I write end up in someone’s wastebasket. We have to write them, and learn from our mistakes in an effort to get better at them, but there are a lot of unpaid hours that go into those unaccepted proposals. I could definitely live without that wasted time and energy.
Ridiculous Requests and Demands
Every freelancer has at least one client horror story, and if you’ve been doing it for any length of time you may have several. For me, handling outrageous requests and demands from clients and potential clients with professional prowess is not one of my favorite things to do.
At least once a week I receive an email from someone asking if I could build them an entire website for one tenth of what any respectable web designer/developer would charge. Another common fail is the vague statement, something like, “Make the design better.” Yes, I have actually heard that one a few times.
The challenge for me is to refrain from losing my temper and destroying any possibility of working with the client in the future, while still managing the relationship in a way that does not belittle the experience and skill I bring to it. Yet, every time I receive a ridiculous request, I am reminded yet again of those days when I just had work placed on my desk with clear instructions, instead of a barrage of ignorance or disrespect.
I Still Love Freelancing More
Regardless of these facts that I fight with regularly, I very seldom focus on them. The joy and freedom I have found in freelancing is much more valuable to me, and I choose to look at the glass as 90% full rather than 10% empty. Still, there are occasionally days where several or even all of these things occur at once and I could very easily catch myself dreaming of past experiences and situations where a co-worker or supervisor handled these painful duties instead of me. Yet I am certain I would never go back to the nine-to-five, short of the only other choice being homelessness. The adventure of freelancing is a thrilling roller coaster ride that I don’t ever want to unbuckle myself from.
What About You?
Have you found some facts of the freelancing life that you could live without? How do you handle them when they arise? Please share your thoughts in the comments so we can learn from each other’s experiences and move toward keeping the negatives of freelancing to a minimum.
Image by Grafoo at Dreamstime