Ah freelancing. FREE-lancing. Already sounds so relaxing, right? While there is usually the perk of not having to get up in the uncomfortable hours of the morning to make your way to work with everyone else, there are also lots of myths surrounding this way of working. I chose to become a freelance copywriter 5 years ago and this is what I’ve learned from being a self-employed professional in the Netherlands.
Freelancing is not a 9-5 job
Usually as a freelancer you are always working. Or let’s say you don’t just work during the usual working hours but whenever there is work. That means that weekends and national holidays totally loose their attractiveness (I am typing this on Whit Monday after 5pm) and there are also no sick leaves and paid holidays anymore. Yes, also Fridays are not cherished as much as they used to when I worked in an office. Sadly, there are also no Friday after-work drinks (or Christmas drinks, birthday drinks, etc.…) with colleagues anymore, as there are no colleagues and no office, unless you are renting a space in a shared office or work for a project onsite. That being said, it is nice to just open your computer and start work right away without any hassle.
Your home office aka creating your work space
I once read that it isn’t healthy to work in bed or in any of your home spaces designated for relaxation. As this makes sense to some extend, it is not really doable for a freelancer (especially if you share a one-room apartment with your freelance boyfriend like me). Your living space is pretty much your work space and vice versa. You can get quite creative with it and set up a little work corner. Me on the other hand, I rotate. Depending on my mood (which depends on the weather) I have phases where I work a lot in bed (winter!!) wrapped in a blanked. As the weather gets better I tend to rotate towards the window and work on our beanbag in the sun, then it’s back to the table and sometimes I sit on the floor. However, it is still important to shut down your computer and take your time to relax every day.
Loneliness and working in pyjamas
Lots of freelancers are one-man-businesses and just work out of their own home. It might be comfortable to work from your house, but it can also get very lonely. Especially when it’s cold outside there are times when I don’t leave the house for days. Dressed in pyjamas and draped in blankets I find myself talking to my cactus. This is when I know that I need to get out of the house and interact with a real person, even if it’s just a shop assistant or a homeless guy.
The constant hunt for Wi-Fi
Whether at home or on the road, freelancers are always on the hunt for Wi-Fi. There is nothing worse than a pending deadline and suddenly your Wi-Fi decides to disappear. This means one thing. You have to act fast. First you give yourself a minute and pray for it to come back, and then you reset the modem. If all these actions fail and calling the provider seems too time-consuming you just scramble together an outfit, grab your computer and run to the next café. Over the last few years I’ve probably spent more time talking to the woman owning the café around the corner than with all members of my family combined. Ah, now I am craving coffee.
The project avalanche vs. the Sahara of work
Freelancing gives you a lot of freedom in terms of working on different projects and taking time off as well as taking your work on the road whilst traveling. Lots of times, however, you can’t really predict how much work you will have in the near future. Especially if you are starting out you tend to accept almost all projects coming your way, and this can lead to a serious work overload. Usually one new project never comes alone, they keep pouring in until you are practically buried with work. Other times you find yourself begging your clients for the shitty assignment you turned down two months ago whilst thinking about applying for a part-time job as a dog sitter. The freedom of the trade comes with unpredictability and instability (this is especially tricky when you try to buy a house or apply for anything that requires you to show a steady income). You can’t have one without the other…
All that financial stuff
I am definitely not a numbers person but when it comes to freelancing you have to be at least on top of your invoices in order to get paid on time (this is after you arranged the type of payment with your client e.g. an hourly rate, per-project payment or rate per word). I do sometimes feel like an angry little Chihuahua chasing after her bone when clients do not pay on time, and I’ve definitely had to learn how to be assertive without being aggressive and pushy, even in my most desperate moments. When it comes to taxes it’s definitely handy to get a tax advisor. There are companies out there specialized in freelancers. THANK GOD.
You are flexible but not THAT flexible
Have you ever heard anyone in a bakery ordering some bread and asking the friendly lady behind the counter “Hmm, this is quite expensive. Can I pay 2,50 instead of 3,50?” No? I didn’t think so. Funnily enough, when it comes to freelancing, people like to bargain. During my project hunts I regularly come across job sites with clients offering projects for ridiculously low prices. Clearly they are putting quantity over quality and it’s frustrating. I think lots of times people confuse the flexibility that comes with freelancing with the opportunity to bargain for dumping prices. A freelancer offering quality work will never accept payment below minimum wage and if a client wants to hire a professional, they are also willing to pay the right price for it. I guess what I am trying to say here is: It’s OK to say no to projects when you think you are being abused. There will be more work, I promise.
Having spent the last years as a freelancer, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Are you thinking about becoming a freelancer?