So… you want to be a freelancer.
Maybe you’ve heard about all the freedom you’ll enjoy working from home. Perhaps you read about that friend of a friend of a friend who’s making 6-figures after just a couple months of freelancing.
Or… maybe you’re still on the fence after hearing the more negative rumors surrounding freelancing. Everyone knows freelancers don’t have job security. Plus, your skill set may not translate that well to freelancing since it doesn’t have anything to do with writing or web design.
If these stories are pushing you toward (or holding you back from) freelancing, read on. Freelancing may offer incredible opportunities in today’s job market, but successful freelancers need to know how to separate myth from reality before taking the plunge into this unique lifestyle.
Want to see if freelancing is right for you? Here are the top 10 myths (and truths) about freelancing.
The Myth: “Casual Friday” takes on a whole new meaning for freelancers. Forget coming to work in a three-piece suit—when you start freelancing, you get to wear whatever you want whenever you want.
That goofy T-shirt with the big pizza stain? Totally cool to wear at business meetings. Those unwashed socks that smell like anchovies? They’re now your company loafers. When you’re your own boss, who’s going to tell you how to dress?
The Truth: Well… your significant other for one thing. Plus, your clients probably won’t be thrilled about you showing up to Zoom meetings in your boxers.
Granted, freelancers do get more opportunities to dress down, especially if they work alone in a home office. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear nice clothes when you meet clients at a business lunch. Or that you should wear a Hawaiian shirt while going over project specs during a video chat.
Even if you do spend most of your time working alone, getting dressed every morning can put you in a more professional state of mind which impacts your work. So, yeah… dress comfortably, but remember to put some pants on before you start the work day.
The Myth: Freelancers don’t get job benefits like medical insurance or 401K retirement plans. Plus, if your client starts cutting nonessential workers, you’ll definitely find yourself in the unemployment line the next day.
The Truth: Actually, some companies do offer freelancers benefits including group health insurance, access to a retirement savings plan, paid leave, travel discounts, and educational benefits. You should ask about 1099 employee benefits during your interview to see if this is true about your client.
Even if you don’t get a dental or vision plan from a client, you can purchase your own insurance. And you can deposit a portion of your income in a traditional or Roth IRA for your retirement. Just make sure you plan for such expenses when you work out your freelancing rates and decide on a monthly budget.
Plus, layoffs happen to both people in 9-5 jobs and contract positions. That’s why freelancers rarely work for one client but have multiple customers. Even when things are going well, freelancers keep their eyes open for new job opportunities and ways to expand their skill sets.
Remember: <tweet-link>when you’re a freelancer, you are responsible for your job security. That might sound scary, but it also keeps you financially solvent during the inevitable downturns in the economy.<tweet-link>
The Myth: The funny thing about this myth is it goes both ways. There are stories about people who leave their 9-5 jobs, start freelancing, and charge an insanely high hourly rate that quadruples their annual income.
Then there are stories about freelancers who offer services at below-market rates… and stays there for the next ten years. Sure, you get to be your own boss—but when your “office” is your mother’s basement, you probably don’t brag about that very often...
The Truth: Your income as a freelancer is going to depend on how much your clients value your work… and how much you value your work.
Most freelancers need to invest their own money into their business as they build up their experience and portfolio samples. In fact, it’s a good idea to not quit your day job until you gain enough clients to support yourself when you leave the office for good.
But that’s never going to happen if you don’t value yourself and increase your rates. Remember: every freelance gig you complete helps you improve your skill set and collect testimonials from satisfied clients, leading to higher-paid work.
Of course, you’re probably not going to be swimming in money by the end of your first year as a freelancer, but you shouldn’t be destitute either. Stick to your budget, plan for your future, and you’ll make the income you want.
The Myth: We live in the Information Age. So, naturally the only freelance jobs that pay real money have to do with creating online content and building/managing websites. Sure, you could become a freelance gardener or artist, but it’s not like that kind of work is going to earn you anything.
The Truth: Okay, granted I am a writer, so I’m aware of all the job opportunities available to good copywriters and bloggers. Even so, plenty of other freelancers make good money as voice actors, graphic artists, and fitness instructors.
That said, it does pay to take advantage of online tools to promote your services and find work. Online job boards post opportunities from multiple businesses. Building an online portfolio lets you share your best work with potential clients. And video calls let you connect with people all around the world.
The Myth: Gone are the days when you lived in constant fear of your boss getting on your case for coming to work late. Now, you get to choose your deadlines—or forget about them entirely. Heck, now that you don’t have to worry about a boss, why not just spend the day on the golf course?
The Truth: Ah… actually you do have a boss. In fact, you probably have several bosses. Each client has a deadline and quota to meet, and you need to honor your commitments to them. You can choose your clients though, so don’t be afraid to say no if one of your clients starts making unreasonable demands.
The Myth: Did you know 90 million Americans are projected to be freelancing by 2028? And there are already millions of freelancers in the job market already! Clearly, the market is oversaturated.
The Truth: Freelance platforms are also increasing, making finding and requesting freelance work easier for both freelancers and clients. Plus, by specializing in a niche area, you’ll position yourself as an expert in your field, allowing you to make a living even as more freelancers enter your industry.
The Myth: Ah, the life of a freelancer! Wake up at 3pm, spend a couple hours idly tapping at your laptop, and then meet your friends for a late business lunch. Follow that up with a leisurely group shopping spree and stop by the bar for some “business” margaritas. Seriously, who has time for work?
The Truth: Okay, here’s the thing: just because you decided to embrace the freelancing lifestyle, doesn’t mean all of your friends did. Some of them still need to spend their days at a 9-5 job while others are busy driving their kids to school and taking care of their own families.
In fact, despite the massive influx of new freelancers, many find freelancing isolating since they don’t get to hang out with their usual crowd in the office or at lunch. This can lead to problems, so it’s a good idea to find your own freelancing community where you can share your questions and concerns. There’s always time for some healthy socializing—just don’t expect it to take up your whole calendar.
The Myth: There’s a reason why they call it the “Laptop Lifestyle.” Freelancers live and die by how good their Internet service is. And if your skills don’t translate that well through a computer? Sorry, but you just can’t build a successful freelancing career offline anymore.
The Truth: Drivers, bakers, makeup artists and more can all build successful freelance careers that require them to deal with clients in person. That said, even these freelancers tend to find work and advertise their services online—but freelance jobs are not just done through a computer.
The Myth: “Do what you love and the money will follow.”
Sounds like a great maxim to live by, right? And it’s absolutely true for all freelancers. Whether you enjoy writing, drawing, cooking, or building elaborate LEGO models, you can turn any passion into a full-time, well-paying freelance career that people will applaud you for.
The Truth: Yeah… not so much. While you should definitely choose a field you’re passionate about (or at least strongly interested in), passion alone won’t determine your success. Adaptability, on the other hand, helps freelancers thrive in virtually any job market.
Successful freelancers know how to get out of their comfort zone and apply their skills to other niche areas when they need to. The learning curve can be challenging, but there’s a sense of accomplishment knowing you can find work anywhere. Likewise, you’ll need to become familiar with common freelancing tasks like budgeting, record-keeping, and online job hunting.
Of course, you can always outsource some unwanted tasks to virtual assistants, accountants, and other helpful services. As long as you can afford the expense, you’ll make your workload more manageable (and probably support the freelancer marketplace in the process!).
The Myth: Okay… you get to be your own boss. But seriously? Who’d want that?
Being your own boss is a hassle. You have to deal with clients, reschedule meetings, and plan budgets. And you haven’t even gotten to the work you’re offering as a freelancer! Unfortunately, now that you’ve chosen this DIY lifestyle, you need to do everything on your own.
The Truth: Dealing with freelance commitments is challenging, but there are ways to make your workload manageable. Online tools like the Hectic App help you stay organized and prioritize work tasks. Joining freelance communities provides you with emotional support and mentorship opportunities. And once you build a network of clients, you won’t have to juggle dozens of projects just to make ends meet.
Ultimately, only you can decide whether a freelance career is right for you. Freelancing is becoming an increasingly viable job option, but along with all the freedoms and opportunities this lifestyle offers, you’ll also have to deal with the realities of entering this more flexible workforce.
If you’d like to learn more about how to realistically build a successful freelancing career, visit the Hectic Academy and study the art of freelancing in multiple Hectic Guides. As demand for freelancers increases, so do the resources they can use, so take advantage of what’s available today!