There’s been a big shift towards a freelance-economy in the UK. More people than ever are relishing the opportunity of going solo, taking control of their own working lives and living out their dreams. But the idealised picture of a life spent freelancing is often removed from the reality; if you’re going to go freelance you should do it with your eyes wide open! Here we bust a few myths about freelancing: working from home in your pyjamas, becoming super-rich while doing less work, and being your own boss:
Days spent in your pyjamas on the sofa
The rebel in you forces its way out: no dress code, so no need to get dressed at all! Dress down Friday becomes an every day occurrence. Laid at home, only needing your laptop, coffee, and access to your fridge (everyone needs a snack). That’s the dream, right? Well if that is your dream, maybe you’re longing for being a student in their first year at university, because this isn’t the reality for freelancers.
Firstly, you will probably (hopefully!) be organising a lot of meetings with potential and current clients. While they might not mind you being a little quirky, they would probably draw the line at holding meetings on your sofa while you sit there in your pyjamas. Secondly, actively getting up, dressed, and leaving the house can have a positive psychological impact and boost your productivity. So laying on the sofa in your pyjamas isn’t conducive to a productive working environment, who’d have guessed? Of course, one of the benefits of going freelance is flexibility, and this can mean a few late mornings, a few days in your pyjamas with your laptop on your knee, but the bottom line is you are now your own advert – YOU are your own personal brand – and if you want people to treat you like a professional, you better act and look like one.
Being a freelancer is like being an entrepreneur, you’ll be earning mega-bucks!
As a freelancer you charge your own rates and you take the full payment, no middle men taking a cut! That means a couple of hours of work in the morning to earn a full day’s pay and then off out for lunch and living the life of a socialite. While this might be your dream, this certainly isn’t the reality when starting out as a freelancer. When getting started it is hard work, really hard work. (The same goes for entrepreneurship! It’s not an easy ride!) Even for people with pre-existing well-established bases of contacts and networks, maintaining this while going solo can be a struggle. The reality for most people is trying to create this base, largely from scratch.
The first few months tend to be make or break. This is why a lot of people will start freelancing while still in other (perhaps part-time) employment. This allows them to test the waters and to see if they can turn a profit while maintaining a safety-net, to see if they could survive without the day-job. Other people who are very ready to take the plunge (to get the hell out of that 9-5 cycle!) might simply try saving enough to support them for a couple of months, come whatever may. This is another form of safety-net, one which some will find harder to come by, but which can also give you the chance to dive into freelancing full-throttle, rather than in the evenings and weekends. Either way, make sure you are competent at writing up and sticking to a budget – this will be crucial as you get started.
There’s no stress, you’re your own boss!
You get to focus on your passion and you’re living the dream. No time wasted on menial tasks, instead you get to delve into the work that you really care about and focus on the projects that really excite you. You choose the projects, you set the deadlines, you are in control. The short response is simply ‘no’. Unless you are so incredibly in-demand that people will queue around the corner to attract your services,
this myth of complete control is far from the truth. You are responsible for balancing the books, this means you are your own accountant, this means doing your own marketing, this means finding clients who will pay for your services. This isn’t complete creative control, far from it, this is doing the work your clients ask for and when they ask for it, albeit while working in your own way.
Of course, there is an important sense in which you are still your own boss. If there are clients you find unreasonable or particularly unpleasant, you are well within your rights to turn them down and hold out for other projects. At the same time, you don’t want to build up a track record of turning down job offers, or eventually they will simply stop coming. Bad clients can cost you time and money and you get the privilege of being able to say no, just make sure you’re not too picky. At the beginning it can be a case of what you need rather than what you want, so make sure you’re only turning down the clients which would have a negative impact; not merely those you aren’t ‘enthusiastic about’.