Hands down, the life of a freelancer is usually the envy of some employees holding an office job. To them, what’s not to be jealous about a freelancer’s godlike self-sufficiency? In the true sense though, people who earn by freelancing enjoy flexible work schedules since they are hired on an hourly or per-project basis. Yet, there are many downsides to being a freelancer, which these envious employees are oblivious of. For the most part, a freelancer’s day-to-day life experience is anything but flawless. It’s so demanding that it takes only the strong to make a career out of freelancing. Below are five behind-the-scene events of a freelancer’s life which every employee should know (and shed a tear about if they are moved to).
1. The lurking shadow of financial insecurity
Whereas a typical employee is bothered by such things as saving money for Starbuck’s Venti, a freelancer has much bigger savings issues to worry about. And it’s certainly not about any instant gratification, but to avoid getting jumped by financial lack. They don’t tell you, but not having a steady income flow, and barely making enough are one of the biggest fears a freelancer has daily.
By their decision, freelancers chose to relinquish the security of regular salaries and juicy bonuses from working a traditional 9-5, at the expense of sole entrepreneurship. Haven't missed a house payment yet, but afraid you might? Most employees have not thought "what if I end up broke or lose my home?" Such thoughts rarely cross their mind, unlike freelancers. The thought of any of these drives freelancers (especially the upcoming ones) to work their butts off. So, don’t blame them if they come across as smart pants; some even take up multiple contracts that cost countless sleepless nights to complete just to save enough money for the rainy days.
Furthermore, almost every freelancer has been forced to get used to the seasons of a dry spell – when contracts are scarce – sometimes lasting several weeks. Yes, they do all that because there’s zero security in freelancing as the next job isn’t guaranteed unless they persevere to build a sustainable business empire with their sweat and tears. Thus, the next time you hear that freedom comes with a price, remember the sacrifice freelance talents make to pay the price.
2. Awful clients you can’t change in the blink of an eye
As an employee, you’re not obliged to be in the services of an employer against your will, how much more one whose bad attitude makes you sick to the stomach. That’s good for you and bad for the freelancer who has to stick with an obnoxious client for as long as a contract lasts. Why won’t they terminate the contract and fire the toxic client? Well, that’s not as sweet to do as it sounds, especially if certain terms and conditions could lead to huge financial losses for the freelancer if they end the contract abruptly.
Perhaps, one might have been fed with lofty stories of how a freelance talent is free to take up or pass a project and can have choice clients at will. But nothing can be further from the truth, given that the average freelancer is financially driven (refer to the number one point above). Consequently, they are prepared to put up with any kind of hirer, as long as they would be paid for their services. Little wonder some freelancers battle with esteem issues and imposter syndrome, which is the cumulative effect of working with abusive and cheap clients over the years.
3. Dealing with time management and career improvement alone
The concept of freedom a freelancer enjoys is kind of lost to the employee. The freelance professional is perceived as being in charge of their time, to the extent of sleeping in all day with no ill consequences. Unfortunately, you’d be disappointed to learn that freelancers deal with time management by themselves. They develop stringent schedules that may warrant them working into the wee hours of the day, and would be damned if they ever plan a vacation around a project’s deadline.
With this, every employee who detests stress would be elated to keep working for an already established organization with a set time for resumption, break, closing, and work leave. What’s more, an employee has their line manager, supervisor, and dedicated team members under whose supervision and monitoring they are optimally productive. Unfortunately, a freelancer has no access to such human resource luxury, and so, must be disciplined by themselves to deliver results to their clients.
From time to time, employees in an organized setting are enrolled for compulsory training courses that facilitate skill acquisition and the advancement of their careers. Some of these training are incentivized through benefits such as all-expense paid trips, paid allowance, and certifications.
On the other hand, all those are mere wishes for the freelancer who must raise themselves by their bootstraps with almost no external motivation. The independent professional knows that the onus of their career advancement lies with them. As a result, whatever it takes to grow – whether it’d cost them hundreds of dollars to pay a consultation fee, or make them start learning new skills afresh – must be done.
4. The Pain of Loneliness
Take a moment and visualize yourself working all alone on a computer in a home office, having no one to talk to intermittently but your bored pet. Imagine that happening almost every day of your work life, and you would feel nothing but deep gratitude that you aren’t a freelancer.
It’s pretty hard not to have colleagues around with who you can discuss problems with. It’s even harder than you would be stuck indoors, with the buzz and fun of the outside. That’s typically most freelancers’ lot, with many turning into unsociable hermits who have forgotten what it’s like to make simple conversations with human beings.
5. Being friendly with rejection
When last did you feel rejected and what did you do about it?
To a large extent, some employees react to rejection with a sense of entitlement. Why won’t they, considering that they have a wide range of other companies that will welcome them with open arms. More so, employees are backed by unions they wail to in times of apparently unjust dismissals from work. To the freelancer who has no person to speak for them, rejection is no biggie; it can happen any day by any client, loyal or not.
As such freelance specialists have long reconciled with the pain from rejection, and consider it as part of the challenging process associated with the profession. So, instead of hiding at a corner to lick their sores, a rejected freelance professional moves on to apply for new contracts, while patiently reflecting on the reasons why such rejection happened. In the end, the lessons learned serve as an opportunity for them to grow into seasoned professionals showcasing impeccable emotional intelligence.