Changing jobs is always going to be accompanied by a certain level of excitement and anxiety. You might be taking on a whole new set of responsibilities. You will need to get acquainted with a whole set of co-workers. You’ll have to learn about an entirely different company culture and there’s likely an entirely different set of logistics for how paperwork gets filed or how supplies get ordered. It can be quite overwhelming.
But you will still have the things that stay relatively the same. Presumably, you’ll still receive a steady paycheck every couple of weeks. Presumably, you will still able to order some supplies from the office inventory, so you don’t have to worry about getting more paper or more pens. Presumably, you will still have co-workers, managers, and a reasonably familiar schedule. This is not at all the case when you take that quantum leap of faith and decide to get into freelancing full-time.
The fact of the matter is that starting a freelance writing career, or any freelance career for that matter, will turn your world upside down. It really does change everything, going well beyond the actual work that you’ll be doing to pay the bills.
The Working Arrangement
For the most part, if you are leaving one office job to join another office, there are certain things that remain unchanged. You’ll still commute to an office and you’ll be surrounded by your coworkers. The idea of going to work isn’t going to be all that different. Freelancing is different. Most of us work from home (some choose to rent out some coworking space or some other arrangement). What this means is that you no longer really “commute” to work; you just walk from your bedroom over to your home office and start working.
This is a dramatic change to the dynamics of a typical work day. You are typically not surrounded by your coworkers, because you are working in relative isolation in your home office. While there are certainly opportunities for real human interaction, one of the first challenges you’ll face is maintaining your sanity. The silence can be deafening.
The Payment Schedule
Instead, what you’ll experience is more of an ebb and flow of freelance income. You could have times of feast and times of famine, so you do have to manage your cash flow in an entirely different way. How you approach your budget is completely different from when you know you’ll get (at least) X number of dollars every 14 days.
The Expense Account
While most offices retain some control over how they handle their supplies, most employees shouldn’t have too much trouble if they need more staples for their stapler or another set of highlighters. It may take longer to replace equipment, like a computer keyboard or printer, but these expenses will rarely come out of your pocket. As a freelancer in business for him or herself, however, all of these expenses are out of pocket. You have to pay for them. If you want more staples, you have to go out and buy them.
Yes, you can “write it off“, but you still have to pay for them. This includes small things like pens and highlighters, as well as much larger items like printers, copiers and computers.
The Office Culture
Are you the kind of person who thrives on office gossip? Have you grown accustomed to hanging out by the water cooler or coffee machine to catch up with your colleagues about what they did over the weekend? Do you like to “bounce ideas” off other people in the office, giving you that instant feedback? Then switching to a full-time freelance career can be incredibly jarring.
You could feel very alone in your home office, even if you can “connect” with friends and colleagues via Skype, instant messenger or whatever other protocol. You get far less a sense of “office culture,” because you are largely an office of one. This is one of the intangible reasons why some people opt for coworking instead.
Everything changes, including your roles. You may have had a more defined role with your previous employer, but when you’re an entrepreneur running your own small business, it means that your role has to encompass everything. In the case of the freelance writing, you’ll be writing content, of course, but you’ll also be handling the marketing, website management, customer payments, social media management and so much more. You’ll have to know what sales tax to charge and how to attract new clients. Every hat now belongs to you.
Now, these aren’t all necessarily “bad” changes, but they are ones that you’ll need to recognize and address if you choose to pursue freelancing on a full-time basis. Are you ready? And for those of you who are fellow full-time freelancers, has your experience been much the same?