Myths, Half-Truths, and Other Freelance Lies

Freelance LiesWith the economy on a downward spiral, more people than ever before are examining freelancing as a viable source of income. The Internet is a tremendous resource for people who may be starting their freelancing career. Unfortunately, there is also a tremendous amount of bad information and misperceptions floating around the Internet about freelancing — lies and myths are everywhere!

That’s where this post comes in handy. We’ll look at ten common, and very popular, ideas about freelancing. After examining each idea, I will identify it as one of the following: truth, half-truth, or lie (myth).

Finally, I’ll ask each of you for your feedback on these, and other, freelancing misconceptions.

Ten Popular Perceptions About Freelancing:

1. Freelancing is an Excuse For Not Working At All

According to this myth, none of us are working . . . not really. We are either spending our days playing computer games or in front of the television with a box of chocolates.

I remember overhearing an elderly relative describe what I did for a living a few years ago: “She thinks she’s a writer, poor thing, but she hasn’t published any novels so I don’t think that she has any real talent.” Never mind that I’ve written dozens of technical manuals and help systems and have published hundreds of online articles.

The real culprit here is the difference between the experiences of a significant portion of the population and that of most freelancers. For many people, work is synonymous with a place that you go each day. If you don’t go anywhere, then you must not be working. Technology is changing this perception, but it will take some time before it is completely gone.

Classification: Lie, Myth

2. If You’re Smart Enough, You Can Get Money For Nothing

The lure of free money –- this idea has been around, in one form or another, as long as there have been people. The truth about it is still the same: there is no such thing as a truly free lunch.

You may have seen the ads or e-mails. Summarized, the content is something like this: “I live an elegant, wealthy lifestyle spending all my days in total leisure while my ‘system’ brings in thousands of dollars each day.” While I’m not targeting any particular ad or e-mail, you should research so-called “opportunities” of this type carefully since some of these may be scams.

This misperception about freelancing probably has its origins in the fact that it is possible to generate income streams for yourself. However, most of revenue streams require one or more of the following before you can get started: hard work up front, advertising/promotion efforts, or a monetary investment. (If you’ve ever tried to generate money from a website, then you what I’m talking about.)

Classification: Half-truth

3. It is Really Hard To Find Good Freelance Work

You’ve heard others voice this perception about freelancing before. You may have even said these words yourself.

”I’ve been scammed,” the poster wrote on the popular freelancing forum. “I spent all day on client X’s project, and now they refuse to pay me. Now I’m out $X.00 and I won’t be able to pay my rent this month.”

Sadly, there are scammers out there who will take advantage of unsuspecting freelancers. It is likely that those scammers are the very origin of this perception about freelancing. However, not every client is out to scam you. Fortunately, there are ways for freelancers to investigate potential clients BEFORE they get scammed.

Classification: Half-truth

4. It Takes a Lot of Money To Start Freelancing

People often think that it takes tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, to start a freelancing business. “If I had enough money, I’d freelance too,” is a common statement.

The truth is that most freelancers start small and add equipment and tools as they grow. Often a phone line, a computer, and an Internet connection are enough to get your first freelancing gig. One thing to remember as you start to make money, though, is that you should invest some of what you make back into your business.

I think that this misperception exists because people have starting a freelance business confused with purchasing a franchise. When you purchase a franchise business, you are paying another company for the use of their name and methodology. Usually, the purchase price isn’t cheap.

Classification: Lie, Myth

5. You Have to Be a Programmer to Earn Money

People who aren’t computer literate or who have a limited knowledge of the Internet often believe that only technical types such as programmers and web developers can freelance.

If you haven’t looked into it, you may be amazed at the wide variety of projects available to freelancers. Not only do freelancers program and develop websites, freelancing can include any and all of the following types of work (and more): accounting, administrative, advertising, data entry, design, financial planning, legal advice, photography, sales, tutoring, virtual assistant, and writing. (I’m sure that you could make your own additions to this list.)

Classification: Lie, Myth

6. Freelance Work Is Easier than Other Work

There is a perception out there that freelance work is not truly “challenging” and that those who do it are not “professional.”

While some freelance work may be less than challenging, I’ve found that often work is sent to a freelancer because the client doesn’t really know how to do it or because it is too hard and the client would rather do other things. Be sure to get the details about your projects so that you can estimate the difficulty before you accept the gig.

Professional jealousy may be at the bottom of this misperception. There’s no doubt that smaller businesses are losing projects to freelancers and they can’t like that fact.

Classification: Lie, Myth

7. You Need a Computer to Start Your Own Business

My bet is that you may even believe this one yourself, but is it really correct?

I say “no.” I know a small business owner who makes a nice living from creating custom quilts. She attends regional craft shows and has a huge word of mouth business. Other small businesses that could be started without a computer include: catering, child care, lawn service, and pet sitter.

It is true that most small business will benefit greatly from the use of a computer, even if they only use it for record keeping and correspondence purposes. The considerable benefits of owning a computer have led to this misperception.

Classification: Half-truth

8. Freelancers Engage in Unethical or Illegal Practices

“There’s something shady about Suzy. She never leaves her house, but last month she bought a new car. She must be doing something wrong to be making all that money.”

If you’ve ever heard a comment like this, then you’ve faced a common myth that freelance work is filled with criminal types who make their money illicitly. In actuality, most freelancers are law-abiding citizens who work very hard at their legitimate home-based businesses.

There are a few bad apples in every barrel. It is most likely that this myth started with a news report of someone running a scam or illegal business from their home. However, just because one freelancer was dishonest doesn’t mean that all freelancers are dishonest.

Classification: Lie, Myth

9. Freelancers Work For Next-To-Nothing

”Get rich quick! Have others do your work for you at little or no cost to you!” Does this sound familiar? It should. It’s been floating around the Internet for some time now. The idea is the freelancers charge so little that you can easily find a freelancer to do nearly all of your work for just a few dollars a day.

The reality is that freelancers work for a wide variety of rates depending on their skill, experience, and the living standard in their region of the world. However, it is important to remember that you may get what you pay for, so check out anyone you hire very carefully. If someone has considerable experience and skill, they will want to be compensated for that.

The current popularity of outsourcing has fueled this popular perception of freelancers.

Classification: Half-truth

10. Freelancing is For Everyone

Anyone and everyone can freelance, and in fact, everyone should freelance. Or, so goes this perception about freelancing.

Actually, freelancing is really hard work. It requires a lot self-discipline. It requires dedication and commitment. Some people are much happier working for someone else and getting a regular paycheck. You know what? That is just fine.

Several popular and prominent individuals have made a fortune freelancing and written about it. Their success has led to the idea that freelancing is the only valid career path for everyone.

Classification: Lie, Myth

Sound Off!

Let’s discuss freelancing misperceptions in the comments.

  • How would you classify some of these perceptions about freelancing?
  • Have you ever faced any of them?
  • What misperceptions about freelancing would you add?