What Is Life As A Freelancer Really Like?
“Wow, even I want to have a life like yours” If I had a penny for every time I heard this, I would be a millionaire by now. No kidding! I usually laugh it off and say something *super* lame to cover the awkwardness that I feel when I get this reaction after telling people what my job is all about, but on a serious note I am genuinely concerned about the way freelancing is perceived. No, this isn’t a dig at anyone, this is simply me being concerned about the way my field of work is perceived only so that people do not get the false idea and set wrong goals in the process.
Today, let me give you a sneak peak into what life really is like as a freelancer. While you see the flexible schedules, afternoon naps, holidays and meetings at pretty cafes, there is a lot of not-so-glamorous work that goes on behind the scenes. Again, not saying this to discourage you, I just want you to understand how things really work.
So here goes-
1. FLEXIBLE SCHEDULE does not mean your day starts at noon
While you might have opted for a flexible schedule, the brands and companies that you want to work with still have a fixed schedule. Remember this point, and you will see yourself falling into a schedule that you can control. Allow me to explain.
While brands might want to work with freelancers, they still expect their work to be delivered on time. EOD for them might still be 7:00pm while it can be 4:00pm or 4:00am for freelancers. Does this mean we need to look out for those who match our schedules? No! We simply adjust our schedule to match theirs, because the least we can do is respect the clients time and establish trust and aim at building a longer relationship. Let me leave you with an example.
Client deadline — 12th December
Your deadline as a freelancer — 11th December
Your time to get down to work on it — 10th December (assuming it takes one day to complete the given task)
Leaving this for the night of 11th December will result in shoddy work, and in most cases, a missed deadline. Give yourself some space.
2. You might not necessarily increase your earnings
If you are not careful about your spending habits and savings that is. No matter what job you’re at, the amount of money coming in means nothing if you spend all of it without investing and saving. With a regular job you do have the security of a stable pay-cheque, which means you can start investing a certain sum every month. As a freelancer you might be unsure of the amount you’re earning every month, so you might tell yourself you don’t need to invest right away. WRONG.
Savings will not help you as much as investing would.
So how do you invest a certain sum every month? What if you cannot earn as much in the next month, what if you cannot shell out enough money for an investment in the future?
3. You must plan your financial calendar
If the last question is troubling you, things can be made a little simple with the help of a financial planner. What this means is that you need to sit down and plan out your year in 4 parts, with 4 short term goals in terms of finances, holidays that you want to take, things you need to buy, and 12 smaller earning goals written down next to each month. Now that you have this sorted, you will get an idea as to how much you need to earn to meet your target. There will be times when you might over-achieve (gift yourself something if you wish to, invest a lump sum if you can) and there will be times when you might fall short of meeting your target. The point is that this will put you into a habit of managing your accounts, and slowly assist you in investments and savings.
4. You are your own salesman, manager, accountant, operations manager, business development manager, intern, coffee-maker, everything!
Yes, that’s right. You plan your own finances, you go hunt for new clients to meet your targets, you maintain relationships, you execute the work, you make sure your workspace is well-equipped. Clients not paying up? You know you need to run around to follow up. You need to stay on top of everything, which brings me to my next point.
5. You need DISCIPLINE
I cannot stress on this enough. Discipline will see you through the toughest of times. There will be times when the workload will threaten to overpower your life, stress will shoot through the roof, but it is your discipline that will help you stay organized, on track, and also help you find solutions to all the problems.
6. You must not take de-stressing lightly
Freelancing can get extremely tempting if a lot of work starts coming in. While this means that your work and networking is great, and gives you a sense of confidence because you know you have done it all by yourself, you will need to learn to take a pause or else things can start going in the opposite direction. There is no one who will come up to you and ask you to take a holiday, or take a pause between emails to just get some fresh air. Next thing you know, you’re working 20hrs a day, over-promising the client and setting impossible deadlines and ultimately burning the candle at both ends.
Here is a simple rule I follow (after having seen the bad end of stress- I ended up with extreme anxiety, strained personal relationships, a tear in the shoulder muscle and trapezius and a lower back injury among others) I only answer work calls between 10–5, which means I get time ample off to live a life outside of work (I might be working from 6am-2pm, but that is when I feel I am productive and can do a good job at meeting my deadlines. This leaves me free to take things slow and work on feedback throughout the day.) Point is, set your work time and match your deadlines, but make sure you keep a dedicated time range to answer emails and work calls.
I also switch off notifications on social media and texts during the weekends. I had in fact uninstalled several apps from the phone earlier this year since I could not handle the anxiety that everything was bringing me.
We are made to feel guilty for taking time off, but nothing, and I mean nothing matters more than your emotional, mental and physical well-being.
7. You need to learn to multi-task
If you wish to wake up in the morning to make your to-do list, get to work, manage all your clients, Skype calls, reply to all those e-mails, reach out to a new network online, take time out for a workout in the day, and head out for some me-time or a networking event later in the day, you need to learn how to multi-task. Tackling things one at a time is ideally how things should function, but do not forget that we live in a less than perfect world, so slowing down means losing relevance in the long run.
8. Lastly, you need to focus on your skill
And while you’re at it, you need to constantly be open to learning, and work towards making your skill even better. You need to dedicate time to reading more about your industry, seeing the work that your contemporaries are doing. As I said, you need to be on top of everything.
I hope to give you a clear picture, and sincerely hope you achieve success in the remote working lifestyle that you have been dreaming of.
Reach out to me at email@example.com if you wish to discuss more.