One of my aims at The Freelance Lifestyle was to give an honest and real idea of what freelancing is like. Which is why I love this guest post by freelance writer Katie M Anderson. Katie shares with us the real freedoms of freelancing and self-employment – and how to decide which kind you’re better suited to.
As a freelancer, I often come up against other people’s ideas of what freelancing is like. Most of the time it’s ‘the freedom to have a lie in’ or ‘but it’s not a proper job’ or ‘you can take time off whenever you want’. And though I will admit to getting up later than I would if I wasn’t freelancing (let’s think of it as my commuting time), this style of working isn’t all about freedom and flexibility.
Freelancing definitely has its upsides, but it comes with all sorts of downsides and responsibilities to balance them out. In reality, making the decision between employment and self-employment is a matter of swapping one kind of freedoms for another kind.
The freedom to be paid the same amount on a regular day
Freelancers don’t tend to have set paydays. I certainly don’t! Invoice payments can vary from same day to two or three weeks later. (And in some cases, much much longer!)
The freedom from having to make all the decisions yourself
Being able to make decisions yourself is a mixed blessing. Sometimes it’s overwhelming not to be able to leave those decisions to a colleague or manager.
The freedom to fluctuate workload without affecting your salary
It’s natural for our motivation and workload to fluctuate over time. Some weeks we feel majorly productive, and some weeks we feel a bit run down and don’t get as much done. When you’re employed, this fluctuation doesn’t affect your pay cheque at the end of the month. When you’re freelance, and only get paid for the work you do, it does.
The freedom to take a proper day off when you’re ill
When you’re too ill to work and you’re employed, you phone your employer and tell them that you can’t come in. Any work that can wait is left until you return, and any work that can’t will be picked up by one of your colleagues. When I’m too ill to work, there are always a few deadlines that need to be met… and there’s only me to do it. At these times (when I’m sniffing over my laptop on the sofa) the idea of colleagues on hand to help out seems like a luxury.
The freedom to step away from work
There’s a perception that those of us who are freelance can take time off whenever we feel like it. Although there is more flexibility when you’re freelance, it’s actually much harder to step away from work completely. Even when I’m on holiday, I still monitor emails and client work. Why? Because there’s no one else left in the office to do it for me, and not checking emails could mean lost clients.
The freedom to set your own schedule
All of us have different daily rhythms, routines and responsibilities, and it makes sense to work to a schedule that fits us best. Working as a freelancer means that I can choose which hours I am more productive in in.
The freedom to increase your salary
Simply put, the harder I work the more I get paid! This is a pretty good motivator.
The freedom to make all the decisions
Remember that thing I said about having to make all the decisions sometimes being overwhelming? Well, here’s the thing: it can be wonderful too.
The freedom to take breaks when you need them
Sometimes things just won’t come together. Maybe I’ve got a lot of other things on my mind, maybe I’m a bit under the weather, or maybe I’m seriously unmotivated. Whatever the problem, the freedom to take a break at these times is blissful.
The freedom to work from wherever you want
The freedom to work from wherever means that I have the flexibility to get away from my desk… or to move my desk altogether. I’m currently planning a move to a new city for the second time in two years, so this is a vital freedom for me!
I find that a freelance working style suits my strengths and my weaknesses, and helps me to live the lifestyle that suits me most. However, what works for me (self-motivated, highly organised, happy to be alone for long periods of time) won’t necessarily work for everyone.
If you’re thinking about moving from employed work to freelance work, or vice versa, my advice is to consider which type of freedoms are most important to you.
Katie M Anderson is a freelance writer based in the North of England. She blogs about freelancing, productivity and fiction at www.katiemanderson.com.