When you work for yourself – as a designer, a writer, a photographer or some other creative job – you seem to have it made: no boss to answer to! You can set your own hours! You’re living the dream, doing what you want to do! But there is a downside to freelancing – seven that I’ve listed below.
1. Friends and family expect you work for them for free. I am guilty of this myself, to a point. I ask my lawyer friends to explain legal stuff and ask doctor pals for medical advice. But I try not to take advantage. Acquaintances often naively think that everything creative pros do is fun, but they don’t realize that it takes time and money to produce the product, whether it’s photographing a wedding or building a website.
2. Those same friends and family ask you to run errands for them. How many times have you been asked to sign for a package or walk a dog between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. because people think you’re not on any schedule? They don’t believe you have deadlines to make or meetings to attend.
3. Taxes are hard. So much for the 1040EZ – all those freelance checks are unwieldy compared with one W-2 form from an employer. If you’re a first-year freelancer, it might be best to see a professional tax preparer, and before you go, check online to be sure you have all the proper paperwork.
4. A lack of personal interaction can be harmful to social skills. I’ve found that when I work from home – even for one day – I talk to myself, to the television, to my cats and even to the plants. If I don’t, when I do encounter a human being, I don’t even understand what comes out of my mouth – it’s just an unintelligible rant of non-English. Freelancers would do themselves some good if they got outside to meet clients or even visited the neighborhood café to personally order coffee. Keep those conversation skills active!
5. You need to get your own clients. You could be the best designer or photographer in town, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get any business unless you seek it out. “Marketing” is one of the top answers I hear when I ask people about the downside of freelancing. Creative pros want to create, not sell themselves. But until they’ve earned a reputation that precedes them, self-promotion is necessary to get customers.
6. Freelancers must wear a lot of hats. Aside from marketing, self-employed creatives must also handle all business affairs: IT, human resources and accounting, for example. Sure, I’ve heard of people outsourcing some of these responsibilities, but can you afford to do so right now? Fortunately, a lot of free or cheap software is out there to help with some of these tasks. And rather than resort to point No. 1 – asking a friend to work for you for free – this could be an opportunity to barter your skills.
7. Your “hobby” becomes a chore. That previously mentioned idea of “livin’ the dream”? Now that you’re doing what you love, you might not love it so much. You don’t always get to use your creativity to make art – now you’re photographing uncooperative children, writing brochure copy or designing text-heavy web pages. And in your spare time, do you really want to be behind a computer or pick up a camera?
That’s quite a list of gripes, but all that being said, would you give up the freelancing life to go back to the 9-to-5 world? The freelancers I’ve spoken to value their freedom too much to return to having a boss and having to stuff their feet into close-toed shoes each day. Besides, the coffee you brew at home is usually far superior to that burned-tasting sludge in the office.
How have you learned to deal with your freelance woes?