A large part of the population still doesn’t consider freelancing a legitimate or fulfilling career. I’ve worked for tech startups, multimillion-dollar corporations and just about every size company in between, and I’ve found my ideal career as a full-time freelance writer. I’m here to dispel some freelancer myths and tell you why some stereotypes are true.
But first, some facts. The 2014 “Freelancing in America” study from the Freelancers Union & Elance-oDesk found that 34 percent of the American population freelances at least part of the time. People value the ability to work on their own schedule in an environment that helps them be more productive.
And having the freedom to work the hours you want on projects you’re passionate about is good for your health and for companies’ bottom lines. A study published in The Lancet found that long working hours — a schedule that’s all too common in a traditional work environment — is linked to coronary heart disease and stroke. And a 2014 study published in the Harvard Business Review found letting employees work from home can result in an extra day of productivity a week.
Let’s get to those myths and truths and sort it all out.
Myth #1: Freelancers are anti-social
While it’s true we’re solo workers capable of laser-sharp focus (necessary for juggling a variety of projects and tasks), relationship-building is vital for freelancers to thrive. We’re constantly marketing ourselves at networking events and on social media, connecting with people who could turn into clients.
I’m usually on Skype calls with supervisors at least weekly to discuss projects, and professional email communication is an art that freelancers are required to master to remain top of mind with editors and to ensure assignments go smoothly. I also strive to meet friends and professional contacts for lunches or happy hours, and since I’m freelancing, there’s no time limit that mandates we cut our interesting conversations short.
Myth #2: Freelancers could never make it in the corporate world
One of my mentors, someone who has freelanced professionally for the past 17 years, had a full-time corporate job before he decided to make the leap. He is one of the most successful freelancers I know and the breadwinner of his family, and surely the skills he learned in his previous careers helped him make a smooth transition to professional freelancer.
I only worked corporate jobs before freelancing. As an introvert, my energy was often drained by countless meetings that never produced any real results, and surely everyone has had an inefficient manager or felt the pain of working in an unfulfilling role. In some jobs, my coworkers and I would be stressed out and work 12-hour days for a week to complete monthly projects, while the other three weeks had a lot of wasted time during our required office hours because the work schedule was slower.
Freelancers are usually creative self-starters and excellent at time management. While these traits make them phenomenal corporate workers, we often wouldn’t trade our freelancing lives for anything, because we’re able to be more productive in better conditions. Get tips on master your time management.
Myth #3: Freelancers are lazy
While it’s certainly achievable to make six-figure salaries as a freelancer, even earning what we used to make in our previous full-time job (including time off and insurance benefits) is often challenging when freelancers start out. There’s garnering new business, networking and connecting with potential clients, and perfecting work so referrals start rolling in and our clients keep hiring us back.
Freelancers who care about their income do not neglect work for activities such as watching TV or playing video games while at home. We run our own businesses, and if we don’t obtain and retain clients by being ambitious and working diligently, then it’s hard to call freelancing a career.
Truth #1: Freelancers work in pajamas (or whatever’s comfortable)
I do know some freelancers who actually dress up in business attire, blazer or pantsuit and all, so they’re more in a “work” frame of mind. This relates to setting up an office environment at home, a real work station, or to heading to a co-working space to be surrounded by other professionals and stay focused.
But others, like me, go for comfort while working. I can get dressed in workout clothes, complete an assignment or two, and then head straight to the gym for an invigorating midday break. Then, after showering, I can put on a clay beauty mask and start work on the next assignment while I’m in my robe and getting lunch ready. My day is much more efficient and relaxed than if I were at an office bored or amid mundane office gossip. My employers don’t care what I wear to get the job done, and that is indeed a luxury of a freelancer.
Truth #2: Freelancers work 24/7
While you’re not working constantly as a freelancer, I do find that I constantly check communications with clients — and I don’t mind working on things at night, on weekends or while I’m on vacation to wow them. Some freelancers do set “office hours” (the times they prefer to communicate with their clients), but the digital age that makes freelancing so doable also means work tends to never fully stop, unless you set clear boundaries.
For freelance social media strategists and community managers, working round the clock is common, because you need to monitor and respond to queries and comments. Be clear with the client on when they can expect to communicate with you.
Truth #3: Freelancers have a dream job
Some people in the corporate world think freelancing full time is unattainable or that making the jump to being your own boss isn’t worth trading in a 401(k) and health insurance. They may be puzzled as to how an individual can make a freelancing career work when office jobs offer so much “stability.”
No job is really stable. As a freelancer, you’re often working with multiple clients, which means if business slows down with one, you still have others to work with and ramp up. Losing your sole job can be debilitating if new employment isn’t found quickly.
As someone who admittedly had fears about making a full-time freelancing career work, I’m so glad I made the switch. As long as you’re driven and talented, you can make anything happen — including a successful freelancing career.