Freelancing Dreams vs. Freelancing Reality

Whether we want to admit it, or not, most of us started out with some preconceived notions of what freelancing would be like for us.

Sometimes those notions were based on hours of solid research. We read blogs from freelancers. We bought “how-to” books. We connected with freelancers through social media and took careful note of what they had to say. Other times those preconceptions were simply based on our own hopes and dreams of what we hoped freelancing would be like for us.

Both methods have their merits. Hopes and dreams definitely play an important role in helping us to decide whether or not to freelance. Regardless of how you prepared yourself for freelancing, chances are that your current freelancing reality is somewhat different from your early freelancing dreams.

While everyone’s freelancing experience is somewhat different, there are some typical experiences that freelancers rarely talk about. In this post, I’ll contrast some common freelancing dreams with typical freelancing realities.

Six Freelancing Dreams Examined

If you’ve been freelancing for a while, stop to remember what you thought freelancing would be like BEFORE you started your business. Chances are, your freelancing reality is somewhat different than what you expected.

Here are six common freelancing dreams and the typical freelancing reality that corresponds with each:

  1. As a freelancer, I will work fewer hours. It’s easy to believe that freelancers work fewer hours in the day when you’re not actually freelancing. Once you start your freelancing business, however, you may find the reality to be a bit different. The truth is that while you can eliminate the time that you spend commuting to a job from your day, many freelancers work at least as many hours as their non-freelancing counterparts. In part, this is due to the many roles that a freelancer must fill.
  2. As a freelancer, I will take only those projects I like. It’s certainly true that freelancers can pick and choose the projects that they accept. However, if you wish to stay in business and if you’re freelancing full time, then you need to have a steady flow of work coming in. To get that work, from time to time you’re probably going to need to accept some work that’s less than interesting to you. Even your very best clients will sometimes have dull assignments for you. This is particularly true for beginning freelancers.
  3. As a freelancer, I won’t have to deal with difficult people. When you became a freelancer you left those difficult people at the office, right? Well, maybe not. While you can choose which projects you work on and who you work with as a freelancer, there’s an art to learning to manage your customers that can be tricky for a new freelancer to learn. Plus, remember that as a freelancer there’s no boss to appeal to if things get tricky. You must solve your people-problems (dealing with difficult clients) by yourself.
  4. I’ll be able to jump right into freelancing and replace my full-time income immediately. It is very possible to earn a full-time living as a freelancer. Many of our readers will share that they are doing just that. But, it takes time to build a successful freelance business–sometimes a lot of time. Very few freelancers become overnight successes. Building up their business is one reason that many freelancers choose to start out on a part-time basis.
  5. Before you can become a freelancer, you need tons of experience. Many people may be hesitant to take the freelancing plunge until they are an experienced professional, but the truth is that people enter freelancing at all levels of the career. Some freelancers have years of professional experience when they start. Others join the ranks of freelancing right out of school. Regardless of their professional level when they start, most freelancers choose to develop and grow their expertise on-the-job as they freelance.
  6. As a freelancer, I will hire others to do the most difficult tasks for me. It is true that many freelancers outsource work and otherwise delegate work to others, but usually freelancers are only able to afford do this after their freelancing business has been established for some time. In the beginning, you may not have enough projects to keep others busy. Most freelancers start by doing almost everything themselves and then outsource work as their business grows.

Despite facing some of the unexpected challenges of freelancing and dealing with broken dreams, I still utterly refuse to give up on freelancing. In my opinion, freelancing still provides one of the best opportunities around to grow as a professional.

What About You?

After you started freelancing, what was the one thing about it that surprised you the most?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

Image by kretyen