There are many great reasons to become a freelancer. You get ultimate control over your working life – you don’t answer to anyone for when and where you work, what you’re wearing, or how you write. Everything great about freelancing centers around one core theme: freedom.
So as a freelancer you don’t have to deal with the corporate world and the stresses of a typical day job; you don’t even have a commute. However, this freedom has a price. Sometimes, people get sucked in by this idea of freedom and jump into freelancing with both feet, before they do enough research. Going into freelancing without understanding the difficulties means you won’t be prepared for the things you have to give up.
I’ve covered lots of reasons in this blog as to why freelance writing is so great as a career choice. This post is a little different; I’m instead going to focus on some of the red flags that indicate that a freelancing career isn’t for you.
I will cover two categories of freelancing difficulties. First, I’ll discuss the factors affecting your professional life and working environment. Then I’ll cover some of the personality traits that make people unsuited for freelancing.
The Freelancer’s Working Environment
When you switch from a full-time corporate job to full-time freelancing, there are going to be major changes in the way you work. You need to understand these changes before you start. Otherwise, you’re leaping off a cliff without looking to see the drop first. If you fit any of these categories, you need to figure out where your priorities lie and whether it’s something you can do without. Freelance writing isn’t a good choice for you if…
You Need Benefits
This is one of the most difficult things to give up. As a freelancer, you won’t get company health insurance, paid time off, a retirement plan, or any other perks offered by most employers. Under the new health care laws, this means you will have to pay out of pocket for a health care plan or face a federal penalty.
You Want Complete Flexibility
Having freedom does not mean you have a completely flexibility. Unfortunately, your clients (or lack thereof during slow times) will ultimately have the power to decide when you work and when you don’t. Your clients will set all the deadlines, decide they want changes the day before publication, and expect replies to their emails or calls almost immediately. If you aren’t available when your clients need you, your clients won’t become repeat customers.
You Like to Leave Your Work at Work
Since freelancers don’t work regular hours and generally work out of their home, freelancing becomes integrated with everything in your life. You can’t simply stop answering the phone at 5 PM, or ignore emails over the weekend. Your office is your computer. Any place and any time you have your computer and an Internet connection, you can work. If you don’t like that, being a freelancer isn’t for you.
You Don’t Like Being On Call
Your most demanding and insistent clients will want you to be available any time they have a question or feedback for the project. If you don’t like the idea of being called up by clients at any time of the day or night, you might want to reconsider freelancing. Your clients may not work the same schedule as you, and they may not even be in the same time zone; you’ll have to adjust your working hours (and sleeping hours) as needed.
You Want Real No-Work-Allowed Vacations
Combine irregular work hours, unrealistic client expectations, and tight deadlines, and you have an average day in the life of a successful freelancer. This makes it hard to find time to devote simply to relaxation, like taking a vacation. If you do go on vacation, you will likely still need to work while there, or at least respond to client queries about the status of their requests.
You Don’t Like Being Tied to Your Desk
Yes, as a freelancer you can take your laptop and work from anywhere you like. But no matter where you go, you’re going to spend your all of your working hours sitting in front of a screen. If you don’t like that idea, then freelancing probably isn’t for you.
Work is Your Social Life and Freelancers Work Alone
Most people find that their workplace is their primary source of social interaction, as they spent a third of their lives at work, half of their waking hours. Freelancers work alone, which means you’ll face a shortage of human contact. If you thrive in a social office environment, freelancing would be a bad choice of career for you.
You Need Others to Know What You Do Every Day
One major downside of the freedom of freelancing is the unpredictability. Your income is highly variable and you work strange hours. Your friends and family may think your life is basically the same as being unemployed. Only other freelancers will be able to tell how hard you have to work for your money. Family members will probably ask you to run their errands, since they have to go to work, and in their minds, you are just sitting at home.
One major obstacle freelancers face is a personality that doesn’t match up with the requirements of the job. If you aren’t the right kind of person, you won’t ever be successful as a freelancer. Here are twelve character traits that mean freelancing isn’t for you.
You Are Disorganized and Easily Distracted
Multi-tasking means doing two or more work related tasks at once; if you are dividing your attention between work and non-work projects, you aren’t multi-tasking, you’re wasting time. Remember that when you start checking out social media sites or responding to personal emails during time you’ve allotted for work. You are the only one responsible for keeping track of your expenses and income; you need to organize all your paperwork and you can’t get distracted while doing this.
You Can’t Set Priorities
Successful freelancers juggle multiple projects at the same time, with each project at its own stage of development. You have to track every project’s deadline and intermediate milestones, and know how to decide what to work on now and what can wait. If you struggle with prioritizing in your personal life, such as doing chores before watching TV, freelancing might not be a great choice for you.
You Don’t Know How to Brand Yourself
In addition to being able to negotiate favorable contracts with your clients, you need to be able to create a brand for yourself to attract new clients. That’s the only way to continue to get work. You will need to be constantly recreating and updating your resume and portfolio, in order to showcase your current skills and value as a writer.
You Don’t Know How Much You’re Worth
In order to be a successful freelancer, you have to know the value of your skills. Once you know your value, you can negotiate for a rate that pays your bills without scaring off potential clients. If you have a reference value for your work, customers won’t be able to take advantage of you.
You Don’t Love Writing
Freelance writing is just like any other job – if you aren’t enjoying it, you won’t stick with it in the long term. Freelancers need even more passion than an average employee, because they have to be self-motivated. When you lose that passion, it’s easy to let the quality of your work slide, and that’s how you lose clients.
You Don’t Have Money Management Skills
Freelancing is a business, and like many businesses, your income won’t be consistent. Sometimes you have more work than you know what to do with, and other times you won’t have anything to do. Therefore, you need to be setting aside money during the good times, so that you don’t run into trouble during the bad times. You have to be your own safety net, especially considering that freelancers don’t qualify for governmental unemployment benefits.
You Work Only as Hard as You Have To
If you think becoming a freelancer is easier than having a traditional job, you are in for some culture shock. In order to maintain your place and establish value as a freelancer, you need to be constantly improving your skills. You cannot let yourself coast. Performing bare minimum work will not benefit your writing career in the long term.
You Prefer Others Tell You What to Do
One advantage corporate jobs have over freelancing is that corporate jobs come with a set of instructions and protocols. All you have to do is follow those rules. As a freelance writer, however, you act as your own boss – you set the rules. This means you need to be more proactive about your work. You can’t wait around for someone to tell you what to do because that someone doesn’t exist.
You’re Married to a Specific Style
As a freelance writer, you probably have a preferred writing style that you pitch to potential clients. However, not everyone is going to agree that this style is right; clients may want something that’s drastically different from your favored style. If you have a good reason to do it your way, you need to explain that reasoning to your clients. sometimes, you will simply have to do it their way, even if you think you have a better method.
You Wait Around For Inspiration
Freelance writing is a world of short deadlines. You can’t just wait around for inspiration to strike before you start a piece. Instead, you need to have the self-discipline to try to work even when you can’t think of anything, and the passion that allows you to enjoy that challenge. Being “just okay” isn’t good enough for freelancing.
You Don’t Have Much Patience
When you submit a piece of writing to a client, you have to expect they will return with some required changes. You’ll have to re-do something you felt like you already finished, making change after change according to their whims. This is frustrating even for the most level-headed freelancer, so it’s important to practice staying calm and focused when (not if) it happens.
You Tend to Give Up on Projects
The effort you put into freelancing determines how much you get out of it. If you have a few setbacks, you should simply get back up and try again. Early in your freelancing career, you will likely face lots of challenges. Be prepared. If you quit when things get rough, you shouldn’t even try to start freelancing. And if you want to freelance, you don’t plan out what will happen if you quit, you plan how to be successful.
Only you can determine if you meet the criteria for successful freelancers. Before you quit your job and jump right into freelancing full-time, you may want to consider a part-time trial run, to ensure that it’s right for you. Now a question for the peanut gallery: what do you find most frightening about giving up your day job in order to become a freelance writer? Where do you think your failure points will be?