So you’re sick of bosses, meetings, and clueless co-workers. You’re sure you can do a better job as one of lone wolves of the working world: the freelancer. What could go wrong? You can wake up at three in the afternoon, cherry pick your projects, and work while drinking beer and in your underwear. Well before you take the plunge, take some time to think about the pros and cons:
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The upsides of freelancing appeal most to loners, lateral thinkers, and opportunists. It’s entirely coincidental that criminals fit that profile. The benefits can be summarized as:
- Freedom to work in your own time
- Make full use of talent and potential
- Flexibility that companies can’t match
- Accelerated learning
- Build a wider base of contacts
Freedom to Work in Your Own Time
The main upside to freelancing. If you have special needs to attend to (e.g. medical conditions with children or parents, or you are a single parent) this is invaluable. Freelancing means you can stop in the middle of work any time. And your work day can start at four in the morning or seven in the evening, so long as you get the job done.
"Yeah, I'm uh, researching for that article right now."
As a side benefit, you rarely have to wait in queues any more. Visit the supermarket at 9 am on a Monday, and be amazed at how fast grocery shopping becomes. If you’re a jerk like me, you can call people and say “Eh, going to work is it? I’m going to catch a movie and start work at three! Haha!”
Make Full Use of Talent and Potential
Because these tend to be stifled in a corporate environment. In a big company, your ideas are often quashed by layers of management. Even if you succeed, your boss may insist on giving credit to “the team” instead of you. Even if said team consists of you and 10 lazy morons who watch YouTube videos all week.
When you’re freelance, you take full credit for any successful project.
"For the last time, you CANNOT call a staff meeting to celebrate yourself."
Flexibility that Companies Can’t Match
Being freelance makes you more adaptable at work. When a client wants something different, there’s no need to seek approval at a board meeting. You can change procedures or methods in an instant. Compared to you, companies seem to have all the flexibility of a pregnant yak.
When working freelance, you’ll interact with companies of different sizes. You’ll set foot in different industries, work alongside various experts, and see how different companies get things done. Because you don’t settle into a routine, every job gives you a new perspective on your chosen industry. It’s a learning experience corporate drones would kill for.
"I don't know anything about emerging markets either. Just learn everything about it on the bus ride home."
Build a Wider Base of Contacts
Because you aren’t stuck with one firm, and your time is flexible, networking becomes easy. Even two or three years of freelancing will build you a huge base of contacts. You’ll know who to call in a variety of situations. Even better, you can sometimes hook people up, thus building your presence and value in the market.
There are some drawbacks to freelancing, which can be managed with experience. But if you’re new to it, brace for some of the following:
- Late payment
- Taking all the blame
- Bearing all overheads and requirements alone
- Constant job seeking
There is a difference between a contract of service and a contract for service. The Ministry of Manpower (MoM) is very specific about this. When you have a contract of service, you’re an employee. You have to be paid within seven days of a specific date, or you can complain.
But freelancers have a contract for service. Which means if the client decides not to pay you, the only recourse is the small claims court. This means burning bridges, since the next time the client wants a freelancer, it won’t be you. Because, you know, you dragged them to court.
Freelancers on pay day.
So your alternatives are (1) wait for the money to arrive, a little after the next ice age, or (2) go to court, get the money, and lose that client forever. Oh, and have them bad mouth you to other companies.
Taking All the Blame
When something goes wrong, the freelancer is playing musical chairs with zero chairs. There is no chance of winning the blame game. Even if you have a good reason as to why the project failed, your client doesn’t care. It’s easier to blame you than find issues with their employees.
Bearing All Overheads and Requirements Alone
If you’re an interior designer, you’d better sell bone marrow so you can afford AutoCAD. If you’re a musician, you’d better have top of the line equipment. All the little things that companies pay for, from Windows Office down to printer ink, will now have to be borne by you.
Let's see: buy printer ink, or vacation in France? They cost about the same these days.
And if anything goes wrong, there’s no department to turn to. Your PC crashed? There’s no IT department to call. Your bank transfer didn’t coming through? There’s no accounts department to harass. And remember: your client doesn’t care. The project deadline remains.
Constant Job Seeking
Successful freelancers fill their calendars two months in advance. There shouldn’t be blank spaces where there’s no project. A freelancer’s job seeking is perpetual: every time you’re working on a project, you need to be scouting for the next two.
Remember that payment might come after a project, and tends to be late. So one month without a project might translate to three months without income.
Freelancing requires a lot of self-motivation and versatility. It’s not for someone who isn’t a creative problem solver. Every project will present radically different challenges, and the tolerance for failure is low. If you’re looking for stability and routine, look elsewhere.
But if you’ve got real talent, and a real drive to make it work, then give freelancing a shot.
Are you a freelancer? Comment and let us know what it’s like!
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