I have been a freelance copywriter for over a year and worked for entrepreneurs and organisations, mainly in Singapore, providing writing expertise that supports their marketing goals. With a young son and living away from my home country, I wanted the flexibility freelancing provided and took the plunge. I have learnt a lot about the industry and my craft in this time and it has had its ups and downs. It can be exciting but not necessarily for the right reasons – a roller-coaster plummeting to earth can be perversely thrilling despite thinking you might die! Freelancing is much like this – some people are happy for death defying moments, others prefer a more consistent career ride.
So, hang on tight, we are about to go into freefall. I am going to tell you why freelancing sucks!
- You have no one to question you, you have to rely on your own inner voice. You need to be confident in your decisions and stick by them. When I have lacked confidence, I have made stupid decisions out of fear. Find a mentor or someone you can bounce ideas off and believe in yourself!
- There are no set working hours. Yes, there are days I work only a few hours but then there are others where I do not step into daylight. Then with different time zones – clients contact me all hours of the day. Plan your time well.
- Work is never consistent – you can be flat chat one week and twiddling your thumbs the next. Use your downtime to catch up on admin and also network like crazy!
- Your earnings constantly change. Some months you can belt it out of the park and start dreaming of that luxury vacation and the next, you have to count every penny to survive. Budgeting is key.
- Clients rarely pay on time. When they do, it’s like winning the lottery but on most occasions, you feel like a debt collector! Be prepared for slow payments.
- There are days you are completely demotivated and there are no colleagues to chivvy you along and help you get through the day. You will be lonely. Do things that keep you engaged.
- Clients do not need to give you notice if they decide not to employ you, so one day you can have a constant feed of work and the next, they ignore your emails and calls!
- No company pension, healthcare, insurance etc – these you just have to handle yourself, if you can afford them.
- If you’re sick, there is no-one to pick up the slack for you. Dying does not affect a deadline!
- You can spend hours with a client, give them ideas and feedback and they can merrily take the advice and never employ you – your time is lost earnings.
- Weekends and holidays, you can never really switch off – clients always find you. You have to set ground rules to help with this but there will be times that you will have to drop personal arrangements last minute for a client.
- You need to be good at sales despite how amazing you are at what you do. You are constantly having to persuade people why they should hire you. Sometimes this is for a very small piece of work than you seem to have spent more hours trying to win that the time it takes to actually do! Get that elevator pitch sorted.
- Some clients employ you, then proceed to tell you how to do your job. This involves a lot of diplomacy especially when they don’t have a clue.
OMG – I hear you scream, why is that fun at all? Why on earth would you put yourself through it? Well, as the ride gets on a more level track, there are some great reasons why I keep smiling, despite knowing another loop the loop is on the horizon!
- I am my own boss.
- I can choose my hours – I can take an afternoon off to see my son play sport or book the only available dentist appointment right in the middle of the day. Also, if I need an afternoon power nap – done!
- I can work 9-6, 8-12 or 3-10, depending on my schedule. When I am motivated I can happily work ten hours and others where my mind is tired, I can take the foot off the gas a bit (if I don’t have a looming deadline).
- I can wear my pyjamas to work – all day!
- I am always learning – with an array of clients across a number of sectors, I am always finding out about new industries and information which keeps things interesting.
- I can often set my own deadlines (if the client does not have a set one).
- I am in charge of my own destiny – if I don’t like the way things are going, I can easily change course. There are lots of opportunities and the sky can be the limit with freelancing.
- If I want to do some training, I research, book and do it. No need to persuade my boss or HR director – just need to check the bank account, mind you there are some great free options out there!
- I can work wherever. Have laptop and phone – will travel. It means I don’t have to stick to a set holiday allowance each year and can work and play together. I have enjoyed a few breaks away and been poolside working – not a bad view to tap away to!
These reasons might not be enough to attract you – and that is fine. We are all different, thankfully, and I do understand the allure of a more stable job. However, I find it liberating and the flexibility it gives me is worth the scariest of rides. There may come a day when nausea sets in and I want to get off the rollercoaster. Until then, I am staying strapped in to this crazy freelancing journey; braced for what excitements lie ahead!