I’ve been self-employed for the last six years and it has been a challenging but equally rewarding experience. I regularly receive business questions via email and am often amazed at what others perceive the freelance life to be like. Allow me to shed some light on a few of the most common freelance myths:
“It must be nice having a flexible schedule.”
By far, this is one the greatest misconceptions I hear all the time. Most people envision freelancers as having a wide open schedule, free to do anything on a whim and only work when inspiration strikes. In reality, I have to keep regular hours in order to run a reliable and productive business.
Working remotely involves a great deal of trust on the client’s part and that is not something to take lightly — clear and consistent communication is absolutely essential. If a client calls with a comment or question and I’m nowhere to be found, that doesn’t portray confidence in the job being done.
Furthermore, a regular schedule is crucial to keeping projects on track. What I always do when starting a new job is outline specific milestones that need to be met throughout the project’s timeline. For example, I might set aside two weeks for design, two weeks for website development, and an additional week for CMS integration. Each of these stages require steady attention by way of a consistent schedule.
“That’s your hourly rate? You must be rich!”
Here’s what you may be forgetting: I also pay for self-employment tax, computer equipment and services, any hired help, meetings and conferences, home office utilities, insurance (health, disability, life), holidays and sick time, and retirement contributions. On top of that, think of all the out-of-pocket administrative and marketing time needed to keep a business running.
You can’t compare the hourly rate of an in-house employee to someone self-employed; they operate in completely different worlds. Being your own boss includes a whole slew of expenses that have to be factored into your work rate if you want a sustainable business. I’ve found that working for myself does allow me to make more money than I would at a normal 9-5 job but it also requires extra time and effort.
“Doing computer ‘work’ all day must be easy.”
Growing up, I was very involved with my father’s heavy equipment and carpentry business. We worked from sunup to sundown doing everything from fixing big machinery to constructing entire homes. One of the side benefits of manual labor is you get heaps of exercise and sleep like a baby at night.
Transitioning to computer work was no picnic for me. It’s quite a chore remaining nearly motionless for most of the day, staring at a computer screen and typing thousands of lines of code. You would be surprised at how damaging physical inactivity can be on a body, say nothing about the mental impact of remaining “plugged in” for so long. Computer work is deceivingly taxing.
I also struggle with shutting my work brain off during the evenings, which is especially difficult since I have a home office. More than once, I have been “done” for the day, later solved a work problem in my head, then found myself implementing the fix that night. Adding to the problem, most of us have smartphones and other devices that are with us daily, making it that much harder to disconnect from work.
In short, being self-employed does come with its own set of perks but not without massive amounts of hard work and dedication. And before you ask, stop assuming all freelancers work in their underwear. Weirdo.