On one hand are those who have been forced into self-employment as service providers, because they’ve lost their jobs and are having a hard time finding another one.
On the other hand are those who would be freelancing no matter what: even if the job market were booming, and even if the Internet weren’t around to give so many opportunities to work from home. They would still be hawking their services, working in their pajamas, and being completely happy doing it.
The latter are what I call freelancers at heart. They have the freelancing mindset. For them, freelancing is more than about working from home.
What Freelancing Is REALLY About
I’ve only been freelancing for two years, not at all as long as many others out there. However, I recognize that true freelancers–those who do so by choice and not by circumstance–have a different way of thinking.
In this post, I describe the five characteristics that make up the freelancing mindset.
Freelancers crave independence… from bosses and employers, from “the establishment,” from structures and hierarchies imposed upon them by somebody else.
Sure, we work for clients. In a way, they’re our bosses, because we have to meet their requirements and satisfy their expectations. Unlike bosses, clients can be chosen or rejected. We can sever relationships with a client if things aren’t working out, or if we don’t like how they’re treating us.
This isn’t very easy for somebody who’s an employee. Quitting your job is not something an employee can do lightly, unless you have a lot of money stashed in the bank, or a job offer waiting in the background.
Freelancers are willing to self-direct, to self-manage, and to be our own bosses–including all the responsibilities this entails.
The freelancing mindset is one that is open to new experiences and challenges, and is always looking for adventure. In contrast, an employee mindset wants predictability and routine.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a stickler for routine, and if I veer away from it, my productivity suffers.
Yet in spite of my daily routine, I’m always working on new projects, learning about new things, meeting new clients and prospects, developing new skills, and redesigning my business.
For other freelancers, part of the adventure is working in your home office one day and in a coffee shop the next. Or, working while traveling the world. Our lives are like a create-your-own-adventure book.
True freelancers are not averse to risk. With our independence comes more responsibility, more accountability for our lives.
Not having a fixed income every month, for example, is part of the risk. The risk may scare us, but it doesn’t stop us. It’s also part of the adventure.
This uncertainty is more than others can bear. If I were the sole breadwinner of my family, I’m not sure I could put up with this myself. (In fact, the reason I took so long to finally plunge in my dream to be self-employed was because I wanted to make sure that my family wouldn’t go hungry if I failed.)
Freelancers tend to be creative people. I say this not just because a lot of us are writers and artists and photographers. Programmers, virtual assistants and other service providers are creative in their everyday lives as well.
Our work are forms of self-expression. Our daily lives are a reflection of what we believe in and stand for. We’re creative in the way we handle the daily problems and challenges of freelancing. We don’t rely on others for solutions.
Finally, the freelancing mindset is characterized by idealism. This is what makes some of us stick through the hardships, failures and pitfalls of freelancing.
We believe in a “better world,” where one doesn’t have to fit a mold to succeed in life. We believe that fancy titles are meaningless (and if not, we can give ourselves a fancy title anytime we wanted to). We believe in the freelancing lifestyle, and we’re committed to make it work.
We believe we can be happy, even prosperous and downright wealthy, doing what we love.
Freelancing is all about the desire for more freedom and all that it entails. This freedom means we’re solely accountable for our own success or failure, for our happiness or misery, for our wealth or poverty.
There are no bosses, no backstabbing co-workers, no unfair HR policies to blame. Unless you embrace this, then freelancing will suck.
If you don’t believe this in your heart, then you will resent the work it takes to find clients. You’ll hate not having a regular paycheck and paid sick and vacation days. You’ll reject having to work long hours occasionally (am I the only one who worked longer hours while employed?).
Some freelancers have a freelancing work arrangement, but they’re employees at heart. They’re the ones who will jump the freelancing ship at the first opportunity of a good job. I’m not saying that’s right or wrong. After all, freelancing isn’t for everyone.
What Do You Think?
Is there a freelancing mindset, as opposed to an employee mindset? If so, what other characteristics does the freelancing mindset have?
And do you think such a mindset can be learned and developed–or is it something wired into us?
I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Image by divemasterking2000