The total, unadulterated truth on freelance life – warts and all
Before you start reading this blog, I want to add a little caveat. I know just how lucky I am to be freelance. I have autonomy, independence and the freedom to go travelling around Thailand or Central America in my business’s low season. However, that being said, as soon as I utter the word, “freelancer” I see my listener’s eyes widen in amazement. See…they envision hipster coffee shops and Chai Lattes; they expect a level of freedom that sees me saunter round Central London, MacBook in one hand and aforementioned Chai Latte in the other.
Sadly, this is not quite the way it works. So here, for your reading pleasure, is my honest take on freelance life, which I implore you to read if you are considering jumping ship.
My first, and most, important point is that freelance life is extremely lonely. You know those new parents who feel the need to show us photos of their kids doing one innocuous activity or another and you are forced to nod and smile because politeness forces you, but really you are thinking about what to have for dinner? Well…you are now that parent. You will tell your friends and family about your business – its trials and tribulations and they will nod, smile and make all the appropriate gestures, but to be honest no one really cares like you do. And you really are utterly alone. For an only child like myself this is manageable, but something to bear in mind for the team players amongst you.
- Peaks and troughs
It is an extremely scary moment to look into your bank account at the beginning of every month and not know where your next paycheque is coming from. As a freelancer there is little consistency or reassurance in your life. And a fantastic month can well be followed by a spell so dry it feels Saharan This can be extremely challenging and daunting; and the type of worry that is wont to keep you up at night.
When I first started out in business, I was determined to be “nice.” More than anything I believed that to be integral to my business philosophy. What I didn’t realise is that not all my clients would necessarily work under the same ethic, and frankly given half a chance are likely to walk all over me. So, now instead of focusing being nice; I work hard to be open, transparent and fair, but acting with the courage of my convictions when my back is against the wall (i.e. when a client neglects to pay my invoices.)
I am a copywriter, literally all I do is write content. I need a MacBook, a desk and a can-do disposition. And yet I have a myriad of unexpected expenses – insurance, legal fees, marketing costs, the list goes on and on. Even though, as I stated above, all I actually do is write content day in and out. Mitigate for these, because however painful it is, you really do have to spend money to make money.
- The ugly truth
Here’s my final point, and it’s a little more personal than the others. Some days I’ve slept poorly, or I’m hungover or I had an argument with a friend and need time to stew in my misery. But, when you’re running your own business (especially one like mine which is so intricately linked to my sunny disposition and demeanour), you just don’t get that luxury. Noone is going to pay me to show up and scroll through ASOS. I have deadlines, client meetings, networking events and I cannot hide behind my desktop and pretend to work. And putting on a face is not always easy or, even necessarily healthy.
Obviously despite all this, I do still count myself lucky to be a freelancer and feel blessed I was able to make this move at such a young age. But, it’s not for everyone and I think it’s important to recognise the potential challenges before committing to the freelance life, however glamorous it may look on Social Media.