Freelancers can sometimes seem like a mythical beast to those work in full-time employment. From afar, they look great; they get to wear what they want, work from home and pick their own hours. On closer inspection, though, life isn’t always quite so leisurely. It’s certainly not easy, and it’s far from the carefree life many assume it to be.
Essentially, it’s someone who works for themselves. This means they don’t have your usual, run-of-the-mill employment contract with a company (although there are plenty of people who do freelance work in their spare time outside their normal job). You may also be pondering the origin of the word ‘freelance’!
This means a freelancer must go out and find work themselves. This can be done in a number of ways and, usually, an array of methods have to be employed. It can include networking events, word-of-mouth, job posting sites (see our article six freelance job sites that actually pay well) and the tried-and-true CV-spraying. Often, freelancers won’t know when their next job will be coming in – half the battle is constantly searching for new work.
Freelancers come in different guises, too. Some may prefer to act as a sole trader, while others may opt to become a limited company. Both come with their own pros, cons and challenges.
All jobs vary in size as well, so it’s pretty common for a freelancer to be working on a number of projects at once. This also means they can have several different clients at the same time. A freelancer, therefore, has to be well-organised. This means keeping tabs on various conversations, deadlines and work in tandem. Without organisational skills, freelancers can really suffer.
In essence, the freelancer runs their own business, which brings a lot of extra work with it: administration, accounts, marketing, contracts, invoices and all the other stuff that your average worker doesn’t have to juggle alongside their actual job.
This is why the idea of the relaxing life of a freelancer is a myth. Not only do they have to do the job they’re trained in, they have to learn how to do all the other essentials – and find the time to do them all, of course.
In the end, a freelancer is someone who’s willing to take risks. Risks that involve putting the responsibility of their working life and career progression on themselves and doing all they can to make their rent at the end of the month.
It can be a tough life, but it can be incredibly rewarding as well. Either way, it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted.
If you’re thinking of taking the leap our freelancing for beginners guide to becoming a freelancer has practical advice and tips on how to succeed as a freelancer.