I asked a few freelancers what are some of the ups and downs of freelancing. Here is the first of three stories from entrepreneurs. This is M. Greens’s story.
Contributing Author: M. Green
** Although I love freelancing, it isn’t a life for everyone. Even for those of us that do love it, there are times it is particularly challenging. In my early freelancing days I had more time than anything and I was really short on cash, so I wasn’t out doing other things that cost money. I was also living in a one-room cottage with a tiny bathroom and no kitchen. The rent was free since it belonged to a friend, so I had few needs. I had to buy food for myself, my spouse and my cats.
** Time management was even easier since I had little else to do. Sometimes I still felt overwhelmed since starting out as a freelancer is hard. You worry about reviews, credit card, and PayPal chargebacks, canceled orders and money. Of course, those things are worrisome later too. When you have few clients, though, there is nothing to balance them out. Depression could sometimes make me put off things that needed to be done. For the most part, though, I rushed to do each new job as fast as I could and I rarely had more than one order at a time.
** I had a habit of sleeping when I felt like it and working when I was awake. By the time we moved into a real home and had things like Netflix, it was actually more difficult to manage both time and money. I also realized that I didn’t ever want to be in a position to end up homeless again. I needed savings. I was much older than many new freelancers today and I had zero retirement savings.
** I sat down with my spouse and created a budget. We made sure to list all the bills as well as a little spending money and savings. In the beginning, we thought that spending money wasn’t important. After all, we were pretty poor at that time and why should we be spending any money on small luxuries? Later I realized that unless we absolutely couldn’t, it really was important to give ourselves those things. If we each had five dollars, we knew that we could go splurge on a favorite fast food item, a discount movie ticket or a set of headphones.
** I had been an avid coin and gem collector many years before although I had sold my collection. I decided that one thing I could do that was both fun and smart was to spend a little of my personal money on inexpensive silver coins. At the time, I could purchase a 1940’s silver dime for less than two dollars. I would often pick up a low-quality coin online or at a local shop. It felt like buying something just for fun, but gradually I built up a collection again and I can buy and trade to save for retirement or sell for an emergency.
** We planned a routine. Many of my clients were abroad, so I worked in the late afternoons and at night. I try to be careful that we keep to our routine most of the time and that we sleep during the dark hours. I find it best for my health to be up in time for some good sunshine even if I run errands during the day and work later. It isn’t always easy to stick to the schedule.
** Another thing that I find difficult about freelancing is that I never rely 100% on one site or repeat clients. I have been through enough to know that those things can fall through. Slow times are normal, especially during holidays. When I don’t have too much other work to do, I plan some time every week to promote myself through forums where my buyers might be. I also contribute to local organizations that I enjoy, especially ones related to my areas of expertise. This has often brought me a local client. When sales are slow in one area, I work on something else. For example, if I’m not getting orders for blog articles, I work on an e-book or I update my online shops.
** I remember one of my first big panic moments after I became more successful at freelancing. My elderly father had a medical emergency. I needed quick access to money and I had to drop my work and go. I hadn’t really thought about a big emergency. When I worked full time, it was a given that if an emergency happened I would get some paid time off. I also had my own health insurance then, so if it was me who was ill or injured, there were options.
** I realized that another downside of a freelancer’s life is that it is up to you to have a plan to get messages to your clients if you are away. You need funds set aside and readily available and if possible, you need to obtain your own insurance. After my scare, I set myself up for as much of that as I could. I made sure that I had access to both cash and a credit card. I obtained my own health insurance. I set up applications on a smartphone so I could reach clients. I even gave my login information to one person I could absolutely trust. In my case, that meant a family member and I wouldn’t advise it to someone else unless it was as secure as my situation. So far, I haven’t needed to have anyone else take over for me completely, but it is my hope that if I had to have an emergency surgery or something, a family member could log in, contact my clients and my site support agents and work things out.
** Occasionally, there are things that I’d like to do that I cannot. If someone asks me to go away for an unplanned trip and I won’t have time or access to work, I may have to say no. In my case, this is rarely a big issue but I could see how it would be for some freelancers. On the other hand, there is a lot that I can do that many people can’t. I love the fact that I can get my hair cut during the day when other people are working and the shops are empty and quiet. It’s great that if I want a day off, I can choose to do all my work for the day at night or in the early morning and then take that day off.