If you’re new to the freelancing game, there’s a whirlwind of information out there about what you might expect about your new gig as a freelance writer, designer, developer, marketer or otherwise.
But you have to give the hype some credit. Oftentimes, there’s truth to what people are saying, especially about life as a freelancer.
Here are six rumors about freelancing that are actually true.
1. You Don't Make Money Unless You Work.
Sounds like the captain obvious statement of the day, but it's the sort of thing that gets overlooked by new freelancers. It's easy to get awed by the bright shiny lights of never having to answer to your boss again, sleeping in until a reasonable hour, and never dealing with a morning commute again.
But then, reality strikes and you realize that no one pays you anymore to sit around and do nothing. That's what (some) salaried jobs are for. When you do earn money as a freelancer, it's because you created something of actual value for someone else, otherwise you wouldn't be getting paid in the first place. The feeling you get, whether it's a check for $20 or $2,000, is what will motivate you to press on.
2. You Can Count Your Best Clients on One Hand.
If I had to spend every week bringing on new clients, I would very quickly burn out. So would every freelancer. Sure, there's always going to be a revolving door of short-term projects and one-off clients who just need something small done, but the vital bulk of your income is going to come from a few solid clients who you can depend on for consistent, months-to-years long work.
These clients pay you on-time and re-hire you for multiple projects. It's these clients that allow you to freelance without worrying about having to move back in with your parents, or quit freelancing and get a job working for someone else. And if you only have one of these clients, you should be doing everything you can to find more of them. Strive to never allow all of your eggs in one basket.
3. Not All Clients Are Created Equal.
It's a fact of life that some people are self-interested, unkind, and occasionally totally out of their minds. Eventually, you cross paths with these people as a freelancer, and every once in a blue moon, you end up working for one of them. I've had nothing but great interactions with clients and have come away from projects feeling like I grew, in part because of who I was working with.
But some freelancers aren't so fortunate. If you sign a bad client, do your best to finish your work, document your payment terms agreement, and if worst comes to worst, be prepared to walk away with a loss. Don't fret though, the sooner you walk away, the sooner you can get on to finding better clients to work with.
4. You Spend a Lot of Time Looking for New Work.
It takes a long time to reach the point where you have enough regular clients that you have the luxury of turning some business away. Before you get to that hard-earned day, even if you don't actively submit freelance proposals you still spend a considerable amount of time building relationships and bidding on jobs in other ways.
Most clients will ask you to give them an outline of your work, come up with sketches, deliver wireframes–the sort of thing that helps nail down a project but doesn't necessarily pay you yet. So, even if people are coming to you, and not the other way around, there's still a bit of hustle required in order to have a successful career as a freelancer. That's why I highly recommend starting to freelance while working full-time, so that you can build up your solid foundation of clients before you axe your steady paycheck.
5. Working From Home is In Fact Too Good to Be True.
In theory, you can set up a home office, sleep in every day, work with a cup of your favorite coffee and your pajamas on, and still accomplish everything you need to get done. Everyone's different, and you might actually be able to do your best work from home. But most freelancers (myself included) are a restless, creative bunch. I don't like staying in the same place all the time, and working from home offers to many distractions.
The solution to this problem for fidgety freelancers is simple: coffee shops are excellent places to get work done, provided they have wifi. In the last five years or so, co-working spaces have sprung up in all major cities around the world, mostly because they combine super-fast internet with cafe-style seating, conference spaces, and private rooms, all usually with a gorgeous aesthetic.
6. You Wouldn't Trade This for Your Old Job.
If (when) the going gets rough as a freelancer, just remember what your old job was like.
Chances are, you'd probably take this life over your old one. But maybe going it alone just isn't working out for you, financially or otherwise. In that case, you have nothing to be ashamed of. Plenty of great freelancers have succeeded in going back to full time, and it's not the worst thing in the world when you choose the right company to work for.
Want more? Pick up our free guide, The Essential Guide to Launching a Freelance Career over on CreativeLive.