The freelance lifestyle is envied by those who work a traditional nine to five job, but it is rife with myths and misconceptions. In this post, we look at the realities of the freelance lifestyle.
The idea for this post came to me when I got a Google Calendar notification that it was my “last day” at my former company. That was almost a decade ago that I dove into freelancing full-time.
For some reason, I haven’t gotten around to deleting that entry. I suppose it serves as a reminder to take a step back and do think about what has happened between then and now.
Today, the question I have is whether I am rocking the freelance lifestyle or if I’m merely getting by – and I pose the same question to you.
[bctt tweet=”Are You Rocking the Freelance Lifestyle or Are You Merely Getting By?” username=”freelancewj”]
The freelance lifestyle
To answer that, let’s look at what the freelance lifestyle really is. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong – or to add your own truths.
Myth: You don’t need to get out of bed or change out of your pajamas to work.
Truth: You’ll need to do that to get serious work done. As tempting as it is to lounge in bed and work at the same time, you’ll realize soon enough that you still need to distinguish work and “home stuff”.
Myth: You’ll have all the time in the world to do whatever you want, whenever you want.
Truth: You’ll find yourself facing a perpetual list of tasks. You can not work whenever you want, but the work will still be there waiting for you.
Myth: You don’t need to organize a work schedule. You’re doing freelance work so you don’t need to be tied down.
Truth: You’ll need a schedule. Period. It may not be strictly 9 AM to 5 PM, but you’ll need to set work hours. For example, 8 AM to 10 AM is work time. 10 AM to 1 PM is for chores and other obligations. 1 PM to 6 PM is work time. And so on. Bottom line is that you allot time strictly for work. Otherwise, you’ll be beset by other tasks and requests from people who believe in the myth that the freelance lifestyle allows you to drop whatever you’re doing whenever they need you to.
Myth: You’ll have less “formal” responsibilities, no one to be accountable to. You’re your own boss after all.
Truth: You are accountable to your clients. You deal with accounting, billing, taxes, insurance against personal and business damages or loss, and health insurance. And if you’re a lawyer, you’re accountable for all their legal matters as well.
Myth: You can travel all you want while working without a care in the world.
Truth: You can travel and work but unless you already have a nice stash of cash to get you started, you’ll have to save a bit and plan your trip(s) out. Otherwise, the travel-work setup will drain you more than give you a great experience.
Having said all that, what do I mean by rocking the freelance lifestyle and merely getting by?
Rocking the freelance lifestyle: You get your work done on time, send invoices promptly, and get paid enough to pay the bills and do the things you want to do (e.g. take a business/pleasure trip every month, eat out X times a week, upgrade your laptop every X years, etc.) – all the while not working yourself to death.
Meaning you don’t work 14 hours a day plus some more on the weekends. Meaning you get to give yourself a day (or two) of pampering – or simply doing nothing but reading or whatever relaxes you.
Most importantly, you are enjoying yourself. You wake up in the morning thinking about the tasks you are going to tackle and you are excited to get them done. You go to sleep not worrying over work left undone (although there’s probably unfinished work).
Merely getting by: You’re basically on autopilot. Work on existing client requests. Send them in. Bill. Wait to get paid.
Find new clients. Send pitches. Wait for replies. Look for more new jobs.
Bill. Get paid.
You may get your work done on time and have a nice income but still be merely getting by.
How so? Because you don’t enjoy what you’re doing anymore.
The solution? Ask yourself why you’re living the freelance life. Why did you go for it in the first place? Is it still what you want to do?
Now, what if you really like what you’re doing but you’re just not earning enough? You’ll need to make changes to your strategy.
Take stock of your existing clients. How much do you earn from them? Is it time to increase your rates? Do you have new clients that pay more and can replace other clients that don’t pay enough but take up your time?
Streamline your job hunting. Set aside a specific time (say first hour or two of the day) to look for writing jobs online, websites that pay writers, and print magazine writing jobs. Limit your time so you don’t end up having to put aside writing tasks. Create several application templates to facilitate applications and pitches. Make a list of your samples for different niches so that you don’t have to search for them every time.
Be more organized overall, not only with regard to work. I’ll go ahead and use a cliché: have a good work-life balance.
It’s a slippery slope to “merely getting by”. You may not notice it till it’s too late. But when you find yourself thinking about work 24/7 – literally dreaming about it, feeling tired no matter how much (or because of how little) sleep you get, and generally feeling unwell, it’s time to take immediate action.
You don’t have to wait till that happens, though. Every now and then, take time to ask yourself the question I asked myself today.
It’s the middle of the year, so it’s as good a time as any, don’t you think? So, are you rocking it or are you merely getting by?
(Oh, my answer is about 85% rocking it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to organize my schedule. )