This is one of the toughest questions that we freelancers have to answer. It’s especially difficult when people close to us, like friends or family, are the ones who are asking.
There are many people who don’t understand what it means to freelance. There are even a few people who still think that we’re all sitting at home in our pajamas eating chocolate and watching television all day long. (You’re not doing that, are you?:-) )
For those who are accustomed to the traditional workplace, the concept of freelancing (or self-employment) can be somewhat fuzzy. You’ve probably heard some of your own friends make strange generalizations or outrageous comments about your freelancing business.
So, what’s the right answer?
The Truth About Freelancing
“So, you are the boss.” One woman said when I explained that I owned my own business. “That must be so nice, telling everyone else what to do.”
The truth is, for most freelancers, we are both the boss AND the employee all rolled into one. We have both sets of responsibilities.
One of the reasons that people are so confused about freelancing is that for many of us it goes beyond a career choice and becomes a lifestyle choice.
In most companies, your employer determines your ultimate career path. However, if you choose freelancing as a career the picture is quite different.
Freelancing as a Career Choice
From many perspectives, freelancing is an excellent career choice with very few limits:
- You can choose the most challenging or rewarding projects. In a nine-to-five job your manager brings the work to you. They may even dictate how that work will be done. Not so for the freelancer, who can say “no” to any project that seems unreasonable or unrewarding.
- You determine your pay. How much you earn as a freelancer depends on how smart you work, how much work you take on, and how much you market your product or services.
- You set your own hours. Getting time off in a traditional job can be a real hassle. Usually you have to get permission from a manager, who first checks to see if someone can cover for you.
- You decide where to work. Freelancing is largely location-independent. In most cases, you can work wherever there is an adequate Internet connection.
Recently, I was describing what I did for a living to a friend who is interested in freelancing.
“Basically,” I said, “Your business can be as big, or as small, as you would like it to be.”
I don’t think that I was too far off the mark with that comment when you consider freelancing as a career.
For most of us, though, freelancing is much more than a career. Freelancing is also a lifestyle.
Freelancing as a Lifestyle
While the career advantages of freelancing draw many, it’s usually the lifestyle advantages that keep them freelancing. Personally, I’m not sure how happy I would be in a typical 9-to-5 job now that I’ve been a freelancer for a while.
Here are a few lifestyle perks of freelancing:
- Save money. Many freelancers actually save money when they start to freelance. Freelancing can reduce or eliminate the following costs: commuting, parking, lunches away from home, need for a professional wardrobe, and more.
- Be there… for friends or family when you need to be. Having a sick family member can be a real hassle with a traditional job. For the freelancer, a sick child or family member can be right in the next room while you work.
- Off-hours shopping. One of the biggest benefits that I enjoy is shopping and conducting other business during non-peak hours. Most folks do their banking, grocery shopping, car repairs, and other chores during the weekend when it’s crowded. The freelancer doesn’t have to wait in those lines.
- Mobile lifestyle. Are you feeling cooped up in your home office? Pack your work and go. With WiFi and today’s mobile computing devices your office can be practically anywhere — choose between working across town and working across the globe, or do both.
- Creative control. When asked why they freelance, control is one of the most frequent answers. Most freelancers enjoy the ability to do a project the way that they believe it should be done and not the way that someone else requires them to do it.
In a nutshell, freelancing allows you to arrange your job around your life, rather than requiring you to arrange your life around your job.
You can probably think of even more lifestyle benefits to freelancing.
What Do You Think?
Is freelancing a career choice, a lifestyle choice, or both? How do you explain freelancing to yourself, your friends, your family?
What do you like (or dislike) about freelancing?
Leave your answers in the comments.