Working from the beach; not having a boss; being able to set my own hours. These are just some reasons folks choose freelancing. These are also the end results of deliberate exercise and hard work that a freelancer puts into their business to achieve.
Not everyone is meant to be a freelancer. It's not for the faint of heart. There was a time in my career that I questioned if it was something I was meant to do. There are many reasons why you should not choose freelancing as a career. I'd like to share some of these with you in this article. These are not just from my own experience, but from other freelancers I've spoken with over the years as well.
not organized or easily distracted
Deliver what you say you are going to, when you say you are going to!
If possible, deliver more than what you say you are going to deliver, earlier than when you say you are going to!
Bottom line here is, if you think you are organized, you aren’t! Being a freelancer means being organized to the 100th degree. To the point of being maniacal.
If your family isn’t looking at you like you have completely lost your mind when you say things like “let me check my calendar” or “if it’s not in my to do list, it doesn’t get done” or “here’s a link to my calendar, pick a day that works” then you aren’t organized enough.
You don’t handle rejection well
Remember when you were a kid and you liked a classmate but weren’t sure if they liked you back? Remember how you felt if a friend went up to your classmate and asked them how they felt about you? The feeling of that knot that seemed to tighten in your chest. This sudden fear of rejection took hold of you. The only thing that you wished was to still be alive at the end of that conversation.
If your friend came back to you with they “like you as a friend” and you spent the next week in your bedroom, coiled up, just staring at the ceiling. Maybe freelancing isn’t right for you.
Freelancers are selling constantly. They are selling themselves, services, and possibly products, that most people will not buy.
As a freelancer, you will find that most folks will be saying “no” to you. They won’t understand the benefit you are providing to them and as a result will just pass on you and your services.
Those that do understand your value and need your value will also say “no”. These folks will have an endless line of reasons why they won’t hire you.
You may get 100 “no’s” before one “yes”. That’s just the name of the game as a freelancer. If you can’t handle that kind of rejection, it may be best to sit this line of work out.
You don’t love what you do
As a freelancer your personal life and professional life has become one. You work where you sleep and eat dinner. You have to absolutely love what you do.
Work life balance ends up with both ends of the scale hitting the floor.
Being passionate about what you do is the absolute #1 thing when deciding to go freelance. You need to love every aspect of what you do between the mundane to extraordinary.
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This is something that’s said in sports all the time. It’s something that should be said for anyone in business, especially freelancing.
Have pipe dreams
Working from the beach! Building the best ever, ultimate, greatest in the world thing! Making boat loads of money! Buying that top of the line gadget!
These things don’t come until everything else is done and paid for.
Billing system, project management, software licenses, taxes, accounting, personal bills, etc, etc, etc.
Aren’t they exciting?
Having big dreams is great, but remember that when you become a freelancer, you are starting back at square one. Remember when you got your first job as a stock boy, cashier, farmhand, or retail clerk? Remember how you felt at the end of the day? You’ll have flashbacks to that at times, especially at the beginning of your freelance career.
Hold onto those big pipe dreams for now. Write them down even and put them on the wall. They will be motivating, but don’t think that leaving your cubicle will allow you to get there anytime soon.
You don’t want to deal with people
If you think that going full time freelancing will allow you not to have to deal with people, then just stop, just stop.
You’re in business. Business is about people.
You don’t like being alone
You’ll be working by yourself most of the time. In your home office, or bedroom, or even out on the porch. You’ll be talking to your dog or cat and most people will think you’re losing your mind.
If you can’t be in your own space for a couple of days without any interaction other than those people within your house, there’s not many options for you.
You could find a co-working space, but that will add overhead to your business. If that’s feasible then go for it. When starting out though, this usually isn’t an option.
Don’t like change
Being a freelancer requires a ton of change. Not just for you, but for everyone around you. If you are a creature of habit and like routine, being a freelancer is a HUGE adjustment.
First change is being able to tell family and friends around you that you are working even though you are home. Sure there are luxuries about being home, but it takes time for those around you to realize you aren’t just sitting on the couch and available to go to the store for someone, or pick up someone from their job, or available to be a babysitter. Once in a while this is ok, but remember you are working.
Second change is on you. You have to realize and set aside all the distractions around your house. If it means getting up and going to a coffee shop during the day, then do it. Remember you are not just coding or designing anymore, you are the sales team, billing department, marketing, etc. These require more work than your everyday full time job that you just left.
Lastly and maybe the biggest change is being on top of your industry like a hawk. You have to notice new trends, be aware of new edge technology, and realize the who’s who in the space to network effectively. There’s no one to tell you who to pay attention to, you need to do that on your own.
There’s always change happening and if you aren’t ready for what the next day, week, or month brings forth, then you may want to stay away from freelancing.
Don’t like to continuously learn
This goes hand in hand with the last section.
To build a sustainable freelance business, you can’t rest on your laurels. Learning new techniques, technology and skills is a constant as a freelancer.
There’s no person next to you leaning from their desk saying “did you see the new Photoshop come out?” or “this new plugin is an awesome time saver!” You have to be that person, which means you need to set up some time in order to do business research and development to make sure you have the proper knowledge and tools to provide the best solution to your clients.
If you are an “old dog” and can’t learn “new tricks” this isn’t for you.
Don’t take things personal!
This is extremely hard for most people. If you are in a creative field as a freelancer, whether that’s graphic design, photography, writing, development, or any of the countless other fields out there, it’s hard to create and build something without some emotional attachment to it.
After you build this awesome “thing” and then present it only to get a lackluster response. Or worse, “this isn’t what I was looking for.” It’s a punch in the gut.
It’s the hardest thing to be completely unbiased. Being objective is sometimes hard to do, but it is the client that is hiring your to make their idea into reality.
If you aren’t objective as a freelancer, you’ll be depressed quite often.
Can’t say “no”
Being nice won’t work most times.
Saying “no” is a part of business. You should know who your ideal customer is that you serve by solving their specific problem. Anything else, is a “no”.
If you have a tough time saying “no” to people, just think about how many people are saying “no” to you and your freelance business. How many visitors come to your website and don’t hire you. How many people you’ve given your business card to that don’t answer back.
These are all “no’s”. Now how hard is it to say “no”.
You don’t have patience
Patience is a virtue.
It’s a virtue that all freelancers put into practice each and every day, sometimes all day long.
I say this as I’m currently fighting with with my coffee machine - grrrrrrrr!
See it comes from all angles.
Whether it’s the dog barking at random things outside (or for me a howling cat from the living room), kids playing outside, your client’s site going down due to a marketing campaign they forgot to let you know about, the phone ringing, all while you are in deep thought trying to figure something else out.
Patience, patience, patience!
You need benefits
If you are the breadwinner of the family and responsible for supplying the health insurance you should take a bit of pause.
Health insurance, retirement, and life insurance are key aspects that you have to consider when deciding on a freelance career.
You should have these all covered. Be an adult and make sure these go right along with what I mention in the pipe dreams section.
Don’t have a good support system
If you can’t confide in someone close to you, vent to, bounce ideas off of, tell them your goals and aspirations, it’ll be a tough going.
Having that confidant is critical in the success you’ll have as a freelancer.
There will be times when you are in extreme doubt of yourself. You’ll need that person to support you. To pick you up and dust you off — maybe even give you a smack.
This is true as much in freelancing as it is in life. If you are constantly being put down or feel as though you are alone in everything you do, then it’s just not going to work.
For me, that was my Grandmother. Real early on in my first foray in freelancing, I was in my early 20s and still living at home. She used to tell everyone in the house “Jason’s working, leave him alone.” She really had no idea what I was doing, but she knew that I was on calls, going to meetings, getting paid and that was enough for her.
Now it’s my wife. She’s given me a few kicks in the butt over the past few years. But she knows all of my dreams and aspirations and most importantly, why I’m doing it. She won’t let me falter in that.
Is Freelancing for you?
Is freelancing for you? That’s a question you have to answer for yourself.
It’s still something that many wrestle with especially in the bad times, myself included. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that either. People with a full time job and a classic 9-to-5 wrestle with what they are doing everyday as well. It’s a natural feeling people have.
Being a creative person and going against the grain is something that comes natural. Having a regular 9-to-5 job seems just that, “regular” and you may think the grass is greener. Becoming a freelancer is a career choice that has to be made based on you and a soul searching exercise that is true to you.
If you have made the shift to full time freelancing, I’d love to hear in the comments what part of making that decision did you wrestle with the most? If you haven’t made the jump yet, what’s stopping you?