Working as a freelance designer or developer can be a great way to earn a living, but there are a lot of misperceptions related to working as a freelancer. Some assume that freelancing is cushier than it really is, and others assume that freelancers are simply designers/developers who can’t find jobs.
Hopefully, this article will help to separate the facts from fiction when it comes to the topic of freelancing.
Fiction: Freelancing is easy.
Fact: Running a successful freelance business is hard work.
Some people see freelancing as a dream job that doesn’t involve very much actual work. I’m not sure how these people think that freelancers make enough money to survive, or support a family.
The truth is, freelancing is hard work. Not only do you have to be able to handle the design/development aspect of the work, but you also need to find potential clients, secure the work, manage the finances, handle all the client communication, and manage every other aspect of the business.
While freelancing may be desirable for other reasons, which we’ll get into, it’s definitely not easy.
Fiction: Freelancers can do whatever they want.
Fact: Freelancers still have to answer to clients.
Some people want to freelance so they can be their own boss. While it’s true that as a freelancer you won’t have a formal boss and you’ll be able to have some freedom that you wouldn’t have as an employee, freelancers still must answer to clients. You replace one boss with multiple clients.
Of course, as a freelancer, you’ll have some say over the clients that you choose to work with. However, most freelancers aren’t in a position where they can frequently turn away work because of the client.
Fiction: Freelancers have lots of free time.
Fact: Many freelancers work long hours, but flexibility is important.
When I first left my full-time job to work as a freelancer, several of my friends and former co-workers asked me if I was going to start sleeping in. For some reason, people acted like I was going to have all kinds of free time.
Of course, some freelancers work full-time and other works part-time, but many full-time freelancers wind up working far more than 40 hours per week on a consistent basis. A lot of freelancers need to work harder than the average employee in order to run a successful business.
If free time and working fewer hours is your motivation, you may want to reconsider if freelancing is right for you.
However, as a freelancer, you can certainly benefit from a lot of flexibility in your work. You can have control over the hours that you work and where you work, and you’ll also have added flexibility. You may be able to take longer vacations, take more time off, or travel and work at the same time. The level of flexibility will depend on the projects that you’re working on at the moment and the deadlines that you’re facing, but that added flexibility can easily make up for the need to work a few extra hours.
Fiction: Working from home is great!
Fact: Working from home has its perks, but it’s not a good fit for everyone.
Most people who commute to an office everyday would love to have the chance to work from home, but the truth is, it’s not a good fit for everyone.
Personally, I love working from home and it’s a great fit for me, but I can definitely see why some people would struggle with it. If you thrive on personal interaction or if you struggle to stay focused without anyone to hold you accountable, working from an office may be a better fit for you.
Fiction: Freelancers don’t make as much money.
Fact: Successful freelancers do extremely well.
Some people assume that freelancer is a title for someone who lives in their mom’s basement because they can’t afford a place of their own. While income will vary from one freelancer to another, there are plenty of freelancers that make a great income.
Those who are successful with freelancing may choose to continue to do it because they make far more than they could make as an employee for a design agency or as an in-house designer.
Fiction: Freelancer designers spend all of their time designing.
Fact: Only a portion of your time will be spent on the actual design work.
If you want to work as a freelancer because you love designing or developing, that’s only part of the equation. Of course, the actual design or development work is an important part of the job, but in most cases, employed designers or developers will spend a higher percentage of their time on the core work, as opposed to freelancers.
Freelancers have a lot of responsibilities on top of the actual work that they are getting paid to do, which means you’ll spend less of your time actually designing or coding.
Fiction: I’m not a good enough designer to start a freelance business.
Fact: Business skills are equally important, if not more important, than design skills.
While design or development skills are an important part of freelance success, simply having those skills won’t be enough. Other skills are often more critical for your success. Average designers who are capable of running an efficient business will often have more success as freelancers than highly skilled designers that lack organizational or communication skills.
Now, you don’t need to be a business expert and you don’t need past business experience in order to be successful with freelancing, but you do need to realize the importance of these aspects of your business, and you need to take it seriously. You can learn and improve as you go, but you’ll need to keep the business aspects organized in order to have lasting success.
Fiction: Freelancers are always desperate for clients.
Fact: A smart freelancing approach involves recurring clients and on-going work.
Definitely one of the downsides of working as a freelancer, as opposed to working as a designer or an agency or as an in-house designer, is the fact that you’ll be responsible for finding potential clients and landing the contracts.
However, there are some ways you can combat this. The best approach is to focus on converting as many one-time clients into on-going clients as possible. You can do this by offering maintenance packages and other recurring services (like social media marketing and ad management).
Almost all of your clients could benefit from some sort of maintenance package or on-going service, so the key is to figure out what they need and make an offer that works for them and still pays you a fair rate.
Fiction: Freelancers have less stress
Fact: Freelancing can be more stressful than working as an employee.
Some people look to freelancing because they think life will be less stressful without a boss breathing down their neck. While it’s true that freelancing can reduce certain types of stress or reduce some pain points from your current job, freelancing can be very stressful work.
As a freelancer, you’ll probably face stress from tight deadlines, difficult clients, projects that test your ability to prevent scope creep, inconsistent income, and challenges that come from being responsible for all aspects of the business.
When things are going well, freelancing may be less stressful than working as an employee, but overall, I’d say freelancing is more stressful.
Working as a freelancer can be a great career choice, and it can also be a good way to make some extra money outside of a full-time job. But it’s not a cakewalk. Freelancing is hard work if it’s a good fit with the things that you are looking for in a career.