What is freelancing really like and is it for you? To help you figure it out, freelance designer & writer Cameron Chapman debunks the six most common myths around what it means to be self-employed.
Many people like to glorify the concept of freelancing. On the other hand, freelance life often gets a bad rep for the nature of its instability.
While there are a lot of myths surrounding what it’s like to be a freelancer, what most people overlook is that freelancing isn’t necessarily better or worse than full-time employment.
What it really boils down to is that being self-employed simply comes with its own set of unique benefits and challenges.
In this article, we’ll debunk the six most common myths around what it means to be a freelance professional to help you decide whether self-employed life is for you. Let’s jump straight into it.
- Myth #1 — There’s no job security
- Myth #2 — Freelancing is more stressful than a full-time job
- Myth #3 — You don’t have a boss
- Myth #4 — You can work whenever (and however) you want
- Myth #5 — Freelancing is not a “real” business
- Myth #6 — You only have to work on projects you like
Art by Hoodzpah
Myth #1 — There’s no job security
One of the most common myths I’ve heard in my freelance career is that there’s “no job security” when you work for yourself. This really depends on what you consider security, though.
Let’s say you work for a single company as an employee. If you lose your job, you lose all of your income. But if you’re freelancing, the loss of a single client is generally only a percentage of your income. It might be a significant percentage, but it’s not all of your income.
"Replacing a single client can be much easier than finding another full-time job."
Replacing a single client can be much easier than finding another full-time job. And this is especially true in times of economic turmoil. The job market can have stiff competition and if the economy isn’t on solid ground, companies can be slow to hire. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have work that needs to be done. And in many cases, they turn to freelancers instead of hiring more employees.
Art by Bahareh Okhravi
Myth #2 — Freelancing is more stressful than a full-time job
Whether freelancing is more stressful than a full-time job largely depends on what parts of work you find stressful.
If finding freelance design jobs and marketing yourself stresses you out, you might easily get overwhelmed with freelance life at first. Then again, if you build enough of a name for yourself in the beginning, you may find very little need to do any marketing and clients will come to you.
In the beginning, freelancing can be more stressful from a financial perspective. When you have a full-time job, you know that at the end of every week you’ll have earned a certain amount of money. With freelancing, you only earn when you have clients (who pay their bills).
It’s a good idea to set yourself up early with software like Bonsai that helps you to manage your projects, finances, and more. Financial stress can still impact your work life, but with Bonsai you’ll be able to manage this and your freelance business much easier.
On the other hand, freelancing gives you more freedom than a full-time job in many other ways. Even if you work remotely full-time, you’ll likely need to clear with your boss if you need to take days off for travel, and good luck deciding to take a month off.
As a freelancer, if you decide you need to take a month off, you can do that. You’ll just need to either work ahead on any ongoing client work and/or set up someone to cover for you in your absence. But you don’t need to ask permission from anyone.
As already mentioned, freelancing can remove some of the stress of only having a single source of income. You won’t have to worry about the next round of layoffs or restructuring.
Art by Brad Cuzen
Myth #3 — You don’t have a boss
While you don’t have a boss in the traditional sense as a freelancer, that doesn’t mean you don’t have the equivalent.
In fact, as a freelancer, you have two bosses: your client and yourself.
As your own boss, you’ll need to keep yourself accountable for getting your work done when it needs to be done. You’ll also have to manage your time effectively and make sure administrative tasks like bookkeeping and marketing are done regularly.
When working with clients, you’ll need to manage their expectations effectively while also upholding your end of the work agreed to. If your client is unhappy with your work, they can not only fire you, but they might also withhold payment.
The upside to this is that you can also ‘fire’ a client that you’re unhappy working with.
Art by Tristan Kromopawiro
Myth #4 — You can work whenever (and however) you want
While freelancing gives you a lot of flexibility in how and when you work, the idea that you just work whenever you want or however you want is misleading.
While you can generally choose the hours you work and can likely create a freelance routine that works best for you, you’ll also have client needs to contend with.
Certain clients may require you to work in certain ways, or with certain programs that fit into their established workflow. You’ll also have to work with your clients’ schedules. That means making time for calls or working certain hours that overlap with their hours.
You do, however, have control over which clients you work with, and if a client has expectations that don’t work for you, you can choose not to work with them (or negotiate a compromise).
Art by Alisa Vu
Myth #5 — Freelancing is not a “real” business
Freelancing is just as much of a “real” business as any other.
You have all of the same responsibilities as any other business owner. You’ll still need to handle budgeting and accounting, marketing and promotion, and legal concerns. Doing this on your own can be tedious and time-consuming, keeping you from what makes you passionate. By using software like Bonsai, you’ll have these tasks prepared, organized, and easily completed. From proposals and contracts to payments and taxes, managing all these tasks will allow your business to run smoothly.
Some freelancers decide to set themselves up as an agency, even if they’re working solo. This can have some advantages when working with larger clients, especially, since it can give a sense of legitimacy that a freelancer who simply calls themselves a freelancer might not have.
If you’re considering this route, it’s probably wise to talk to an accountant or lawyer about the advantages and disadvantages of different business types.
Art by Leslie Soto Valenzuela
Myth #6 — You only have to work on projects you like
Once you’re established as a freelancer, you may have the option to only work on projects you’re passionate about. But particularly when you’re starting out, you may need to take on any projects you can get. There are plenty of freelance websites online to find your first work opportunities, which is a great place to start.
Once you have projects coming in, it can be a challenge to manage them all efficiently. Software like Bonsai is perfect for freelancers who need to manage multiple tasks and projects, all from one easy-to-use platform.
One way to move toward only taking on projects you like is to make sure your portfolio reflects the kinds of projects you enjoy. Targeting your design portfolio is a tried and true method for attracting the kinds of clients you’re excited to work with.
Art by Julia Hanke
What is freelancing really like and is it for you?
Being self-employed isn’t for everyone, and understanding the true meaning of what it means to freelance is key to deciding whether it’s a good fit. Like any career path, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons compared to what’s important to you. If you're ready to launch your freelance career, sign up for Dribbble Pro Business to get daily leads to your inbox every day, along with plenty of other perks to help grow your business.
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