When you choose to strike it out on your own with your own small business, typically operating out of your modest home office, everything changes. It’s not just about your job or career anymore, because that decision impacts just about every aspect of your lifestyle. And what I’ve found over these last few years is that the pros and the cons of being a freelancer are really two sides of the same coin.
The Issue of Income
With most traditional jobs, you have one employer who will provide you with a paycheck for roughly the same amount of money every couple of weeks. There is a definite level of predictability there, but if you lose that job for whatever reason, you may have a challenging time finding a new job (that both suits your skills and pays a desire amount) quickly. Freelancing is entirely different.
Instead of having one employer, you will have multiple income sources from multiple clients. Your income sources are diversified, so if you happen to lose a client for whatever reason, you can still rely on the income you receive from your other clients and projects. That’s good. On the flip side, it also means that you’ll likely have good months and bad months. It also means that, in effect, you are always on the job hunt. When and how much you get paid can be somewhat erratic, so you need to plan accordingly.
Diversification of Skills
This is good, because it means that my skill set continues to expand and mature. On the other hand, because I spend time handling all of these other responsibilities, I can’t spend as much time focusing on my actual writing. Contrast this with more of a focused conventional job within a larger corporate environment. If you’re the graphic designer, you don’t need to worry about human resources, accounting or sales and marketing, at least not directly. This “cubby-hole” effect is a blessing and a curse.
Independence and Freedom
It’s right there in the title, right? A freelancer should be free and the freelance lifestyle should afford a certain level of freedom. There is the professional freedom that comes from being able to pick your clients and projects (to an extent). There is the freedom of time that allows you to set your own schedule. And there is the freedom of location, depending on your line of work. For the most part, I can work from almost anywhere I have a reliable Internet connection.
But as Uncle Ben once told us, with great power comes great responsibility. And with this sense of freedom and independence also comes great responsibility. You want to be passionate about your business, but you also run the risk of feeling like you are always on the clock. Every vacation becomes a working vacation and every leisurely moment brings the guilt of not working.
Freelancer Social Skills and Networking
You might remember a comic strip from the Oatmeal illustrating degradation of social skills that comes with working from home. I would like to think that I haven’t descended that far down just yet. What’s interesting about working from home as a freelancer is that the lifestyle is conducive to both improving and degrading your social skills.
On the one hand, the natural introvert really can lock themselves into the safe confines of a home office and focus on the tasks at hand. They don’t have to deal with the politics and gossip of a more traditional office. On the other hand, a successful business cannot be run in isolation. You need to network. You need to “hustle.” You need to see and talk to people at some point, because your business depends on it.
Thinking Makes It So
Freelancing isn’t for everyone. It has its ups and downs, its advantages and disadvantages. At the end of the day, it’s really a matter of perspective and how you choose to view and lead the lifestyle of the freelancer. I think it suits me perfectly, especially with a baby on the way. If it means that I can spend more time with my growing family, then it’s all worth it.