What to Expect When You Finally Do Become a Freelancer

What to Expect When You Become A FreelancerBefore you become a full-time freelancer, you tend to have a romanticized view of freelancing.

You imagine waking up at any time of the day, working blissfully in your pajamas, pumping iron at the gym in the middle of the day, and spending many happy hours with your family.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but freelancing isn’t exactly like that. Freelancing will change your life drastically, for better or worse. If you’re not prepared for these changes, you may find yourself regretting your decision to freelance.

Let me look into my crystal ball and show you what changes will happen in all the areas of your life.

Physical Changes

The problem with freelancing is, if you’re doing it right, it’s so much fun! Yup, you’ll probably get work you actually enjoy doing… and never want to get up from the computer.

Or you’ll have so much work, you’re forced to stay in front of the computer for hours on end. After all, the more work you do, the more money you make, right?

All this working leads to a phenomenon my mentor lovingly coined as “computer butt.” Your weight may remain the same (lucky you!), but your shape won’t. You’ll notice a spread towards the middle of your body. Then you’ll wonder, “Where has my waist gone?” And all your jeans will get too tight.

The bad news for freelancers is, sitting for hours is bad for our health. It can even undo the benefits of all the working out we do. According to this study, sitting for hours a day puts you at greater risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancers.

Granted, you probably also sat a lot when you had a traditional job. But I’ll bet you used every excuse to walk away from your desk and went home as soon as you could in the afternoons.

Also, as a freelancer, your schedule is so flexible, you may choose to play in the daytime and work at night–which means not getting enough sleep. You’ll also be tempted to eat your meals in front of the computer. Or totally forget to eat lunch and then grab a chocolate bar mid-afternoon when your stomach starts to complain (believe me, I know).

The bottom line is, when you become a freelancer, you’ll have more time to take care of yourself BUT the temptation will be great to neglect your health instead. Expect this and plan for it.

Mental Changes

I’m convinced successful freelancers are some of the smartest people around. For one thing, you need the proper mindset to succeed in freelancing. If you’re full of self-doubt, negative self-talk and pessimism, then you won’t make it. No matter how talented or skilled you are.

Furthermore, freelancers are forced to keep learning and growing. You’ve got to keep up or get left behind. When you become a freelancer, you’ll most likely read more books than you ever have since finishing school. You’ll also attend seminars, take home-study courses, and read materials in all sorts of different markets and industries.

You’ll also learn to be more disciplined mentally. You’ll be able to tune out distractions, focus mentally for longer periods of time, and be more organized. It’s tough, but freelancing gives you on-the-job training in all these areas.

Social Changes

Unless you’re freelancing from your client’s office, you’ll find yourself suddenly alone, most of the time. You’ll be working all by your lonesome self most days. Even if you work in a coffee shop, you won’t want to chat with others; chatting means no work gets done!

You’ll also find that the line between work and the-rest-of-your-life has gotten blurred. There is no office to leave behind at end of the day. If you have a home office door you can close, preferably lock, you’re one of the lucky few. For most of us mortal freelancers, work is always within arm’s reach. It doesn’t help that we can now check email from our smart phones.

Yes, it’s going to be pretty darn hard to get your mind and body away from work, much to the annoyance of your family and friends. The thing is, you’ll WANT to work, which complicates things even more.

Financial Changes

The financial changes are probably the ones you’ll expect. You already know you’re not getting a pay check every two weeks, right? Nope, money will come at all times of the month. Some months you’ll have more, some months less. This can be very stressful.

But if you already expect these financial changes, then you’re ahead of the game. That means you know you’ve got to be prepared for freelancing by having a healthy emergency fund.

All these financial fluctuations mean you’re going to become a better financial manager. You’ll become more disciplined about your budget. You’ll be a better planner, taking into account what you need not just to cover the bills, but also emergencies, insurance payments, vacations, sick days, and retirement.

Career Changes

When you become a freelancer, one of the first things that will strike you is the enormous weight of being entirely responsible for your success. You’ll have no more bosses, HR managers and co-workers to rely on or blame. It’s all on you!

You’ll find yourself juggling multiple roles: chief executive, financial manager, operations chief, marketer, salesperson, and human relations manager. And you thought you were in business as a ____ (fill in the blank). Wrong! You are now a business owner, and unless you’re planning to grow into an agency, you’re in charge of EVERYTHING.

Sound scary? It is. But when you overcome the initial shock and step up to the challenge, you’ll be a more confident person. You’ll look back and realize you’ve come a long way. And finally, you’ll understand that you really do create your own opportunities.

Parting Words

If you’re an aspiring freelancer, I hope this post didn’t scare you away from freelancing. My goal is to let you know what to expect so you can use the changes to your advantage. Brace and prepare yourself for them. They’ll be difficult to deal with at first. Some changes will be challenging for years. But in the end, I hope you’ll realize freelancing can make you a better person all around.

Your Turn

Which of these changes will be most difficult for you? How do you plan to cope?

If you’re an experienced freelancer, what other changes did you go through?

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