Companies that are celebrated in the past decade offer freedom of movement in and out of the office, decentralize decision-making, mold culture exalting individualism and collaboration, foster what Bob Johansen calls in Leaders make the Future “diasporas of makers,” and where leaders involve themselves in the “messy processes.” However, among the whole labor force, there’s only a tiny percent who are fortunate enough to work for these companies. Like I said before, it is a choice – a choice to find ways to get in these companies and a choice not to go the extra mile. Nevertheless, those who need or want more flexibility and self-controlled work don’t necessarily get to work in companies that allow that. This leads some to be freelancers – first as a sideline, then full-time.
I am officially 2 years and 6 months into my freelancing stint. Many are curious as to what exactly I do and many of them forget because unlike most, I’m not identified with a specific title. Some are envious that I have better control of my time, but very few truly understand how much hard work I have to put in to sustain it. I know more people who have been freelancing way longer, working from home, taking care of their families, taking enough personal time and so on, but I doubt if anyone really understands what it takes to make all that happen.
Contrary to popular belief, there’s a bad side to freelancing and I’ve experienced them all, and I’d like to think that I’m not alone in some of them at least. So I’ll give them all a go:
Good: You do have better control of your time.
Bad: You work all the time.
You work for the monthly earnings you want based on your hourly fees. It is usually a struggle between the rate you think you deserve and the available work whose rates are much lower because well, that’s why companies opt to get a freelancer in the first place. I suggest that you set reasonable hours of work, service offers you can accomplish and the range of pay you are willing to receive against the total monthly earnings you need and want. Prepare yourself for what comes out of that decision.
Value of work
Good: You immediately see the value of what you do.
Bad: There are little, or no, promotional prospects.
Everything that’s required of you are usually put in black and white so as you deliver, you see the value of you having finished items from the worked you’ve been hired to do. Unfortunately, since it’s usually a temporary or remote job, there’s little chance of getting promoted. If that’s something you value, it’s best to work full-time as a regular employee or set your own ways to promote yourself such as gaining certifications on your own, learning new skills needed in the freelancing market and so on.
Good: You can do a healthy mix of activities because you have more energy.
Bad: Weekends and Holidays do not apply.
You really save a lot of energy with freelancing. You don’t go through traffic, unnecessary chatter, etc. You’ll have more energy to actually put on productive work. Now consider this: If your hourly fee is P300 and a comfortable monthly income is P100,000 (because no one else provides you with any benefits, insurance and securities anymore), you need to work 11 hours every day – including weekends. So you don’t get weekends off, or Holidays off, unless you want to work 17 hours every weekday. That is if you get a steady feed of work the whole month with a reasonably acceptable hourly rate. I suggest, you make the most of the time you can and be realistic about your capacity to work and the money you want to earn.
Good: You accept the targets you want and can do.
Bad: Don’t know if you’re progressing fast enough.
Because you set your own limits and as I said, you want to be realistically comfortable with what you want to do, no one can really tell you if you’re doing enough. There is no KPI or employee evaluation to tell you if you’re progressing and what you need to do to get better. I suggest that you consistently ask for reviews from companies you freelance for and set your own KPI’s based on what you want to be able to do short-term.
Good: You learn to find ways to make your work more efficient to make the most of every hour.
Bad: Your only access to best practices are those online.
Multinational companies are notorious for developing internal intelligence by sharing best practices and making training materials available for everyone. Since freelancers don’t get that access, they have to find their own sources online. To make sure you don’t lag behind, it’s best to keep track of sources that are useful and do spend time to read and learn.
If anything, there’s one fundamental factor about freelancing and that’s: You Work For the Money And Experience You Want To Earn. Everything revolves around that: the time you spend working, the energy you preserve, the skills you learn, the things you read, your productivity habits, etc. By this time you can tell that freelancing isn’t for everyone. If you plan to be a freelancer short or long-term, these are the characteristics and attitudes I’ve observed to be very helpful:
Discipline. If you’re prone to distractions, where you work or just as a person, your focus and productivity will easily get screwed.
Independent. You get little or no supervision so it’s best that even with supervision, you’ve already adopted an independent aspect to your work habits.
Self-energizing. Solitude is going to be your best friend. No more office gossip or pantry chatter as your break. You have to learn how to take a break, re-energize and re-focus on your own.
Confidence. You can’t be feeble about the skills and work you can do. You are your own company and you have to sell your services to earn, but first you have to be confident about the services you can do.
I am proud that I’m functionally obsessive compulsive enough to have worked this long independently but I’m actually excited to get back on full-time regular employment. I may have said otherwise a few months ago but I realized, there are so much more things to learn and experience that’s unique to long-term corporate strategies. I’m terribly sad to let go of how much control I have over my time, energy and productivity but that control that freelancing gives limits me from taking on new tasks and challenges. To be honest, I don’t know any full-time freelancers myself. I know entrepreneurs, part-time entrepreneurs with full-time day jobs but no one that’s completely dependent on freelancing for their monthly earnings. But don’t get me wrong, I highly recommend it! Take it part-time or short-term while you focus on our family or studies. Freelancing helps you become more self-aware, more appreciative of your days and the people you truly value and vice versa. So, how about you, how was your freelancing experience?