The Trials and Tribulations of Freelancing; U. Razvan's Story

** I asked a few freelancers what are some of the ups and downs of freelancing. Here is the second of three stories from entrepreneurs. This is U. Razven’s story.

Contributing Author: U. Razvan


** With computers and the Internet having become extensions of everything we do (and of ourselves as humans), the traditional 9-to-5 jobs are nowadays at risk since more and more people are drawn to what appears to be the perfect job: that of being self-employed. The whole job economy is changing and even getting a new name — the gig economy, with freelancers taking over the job market by force. In 2017, a whopping 36% of the American workforce was comprised of freelancers, with forecasts estimating a further increase up to 50% by 2020!

** Fun Fact: the term “free lance” was first used in the 18th century to describe mercenary soldiers (they had no allegiance to any kings, hence the word free) based on their weapon of choice — the lance!

** Recently I told a friend of mine that I am working as a freelancer, and her immediate reaction was “Lucky you! I’m stuck at this crappy job”. That’s because most people will think that working from the comfort of your home implies a happy & stress-free life, without a nagging boss to answer to, and, of course, lots of money (although there will always be people who claim that freelancing isn’t a real job). But is freelancing really all pink and dandy? Ask any freelancer and they will tell you it’s not. Sometimes it almost feels like there is a secret code among freelancers, a code that they all know and have to adhere to.

** Now, as a fellow freelancer myself, in this article, I will walk you through the real trials and tribulations of being a freelance soldier, pardon me, a freelancer!

PRO: You get to choose your own clients.
** Depending on where you offer your skills as a freelancer, you can either have full control over who you work with, or partial control in the case of freelance platforms. For example, if you set up your own website as a means to get new clients, then only you decide which clients you want to work with. But if you rely on a website that provides a platform or market for freelancers to sell their skills, then you might not have much control over the clients you get.

PRO: Your skills, your price!
** No matter how and where you choose to freelance, you are in full control over the skills that you want to offer, as well as how you price them. Most of the time you can even decide when you get paid, as opposed to a regular job where you usually get paid once a month. All of these advantages can lead to an unlimited potential to earn as much money as you possibly can, and without the fear of asking for a raise. Simply put: you are your own boss! But as captivating as it may sound, are you sure you’re ready to take on the responsibilities of being a boss, especially yours?

PRO: The schedule is yours to make!
** We all have our own body clock, therefore some of you might be night owls, while others early birds. Some will need to spend more time with the kids, while others would want to travel more. Because of this, it naturally comes hard to plan your whole life based on a fixed daily work schedule, hence the need for a more flexible schedule. As a freelancer, you can simply wake up whenever you wish to, start working at whatever time you feel ready, work as much as you want, have as many breaks as you need, and nobody will tell you a thing!

PRO: The whole world as your workplace.
** As a freelancer, you decide where you work! It can be your home, the local coffee shop or the library, your favorite park, whatever place gets your creative juices flowing! You can even alternate all of these depending on your mood or how you wake up, or experiment with new places to work in. The world is yours to take as long as you have an Internet connection! Need to relocate to a different city or a different country altogether? No problem — more places to try for your next workplace! Having the freedom to choose your own workplace can result in a major positive impact on your mental & physical health, which your work will surely reflect.

PRO: Who needs office politics or conduct codes?
** For some of us, these matters can easily mark the most important advantages of being a freelancer. There is no more dress code if you choose to work from home, so you can just keep your pajamas on if that feels best to you. And, of course, you can put the fun back into your work by singing your favorite tunes without distracting any colleagues, turning on the A/C whenever you want, taking a break to play your favorite game, or watching funny videos without having to look over your shoulders!

PRO: Save time and money.
** This is actually a no-brainer — no more losing time on the road to work, and less gas for your car to burn since you basically wake up in your “office” if you decide to work from your comfy bed. Enough said!

PRO: Freelancing as a lucrative side hustle.
** If you feel that it is too hard to freelance full-time, you could simply make it your side job (think of it as a bonus) that complements a traditional full-time or part-time job, thus ending up with two income sources (or more if you’re feeling ambitious). This way you can get the best of both worlds and fight all the cons of one job with the pros of the other, and vice versa; or you could simply try out freelancing before you consider making it your full-time job.

CON: Income inconsistencies & job security.
** Clients come and go, and you’re fully responsible for getting new clients, as well as keeping old ones. You will face periods of good sales when you’re going to be swamped with work, and periods of sheer sales slumps that will ruin your rhythm and focus. Holidays can be the best if your work pertains to a seasonal niche, or the worst otherwise. All these inconsistencies and insecurities can get worse with time once they become a constant in your life.

CON: Work and home colliding in your finest moments.
** It’s extremely hard, if not impossible, to separate your work from your family or home duties. For example, if you work at home, your family will always see you around and will not think of you as being in a working position, so they will tend to distract you quite often, to the point of becoming annoying, ultimately making it impossible for you to focus on your work.

** Another example is when you need to be with your family but your mind involuntarily starts thinking about work. You’ll be tempted to regularly check your email, just in case you get a new client or that existing client wants a change, which will ruin the time that should have been spent with your family.

CON: Lack of real-life colleagues and peers.
** As annoying and loud work colleagues can sometimes be, you’ll wish you had someone else to talk to, other than your family or the strangers in the park. Not having work colleagues can and will bring up feelings of isolation. Even your work can eventually reflect that since you won’t have anyone around you to compete with or ask for their help. And speaking of help, there is a really high chance you won’t have anyone to ask to cover for you when you simply cannot work due to health problems, personal emergencies or other unforeseen circumstances (however, did you know that freelancers have a lower risk of getting sick?)

CON: A flexible schedule can result in no schedule.
** While a fixed schedule can be bad or annoying for some of us, a flexible schedule can eventually result in having no schedule whatsoever, which is worse in the long run. You will get easily distracted or fall into the procrastination abyss (disclaimer: some procrastination is recommended and quite healthy), then you will soon realize that you’re late with work, or that you’ve mixed up the deliveries or the clients themselves! If you want to work at full capacity and avoid such nerve-wracking situations, then you will definitely need to employ some self-discipline.

** There is also the problem of working hours. Depending on where you get your clients from as a freelancer, you can end up working with and for clients from all over the world, from all possible time zones. If you don’t know how to discipline yourself and your clients, too, you will turn into a zombie working day and night. This, in turn, will ruin everything you’ve worked so hard to build.

CON: One boss vs. multiple bosses.
** On a regular job you get to know your boss inside and out, you familiarize yourself with their body language, and you will know how to approach them when needed, as well as how to engage them without stirring the waters or starting a conflict. What about freelancing? After all, you are your own boss, right? That’s just part of the story because, if you think about it, every boss has their own boss up the chain. So if you are your own boss, then who is your boss’ boss?

** Well, it turns out that in the freelance world every client you get automatically becomes your boss, and the stress of dealing with tenths or hundreds of bosses every day of the month can easily play a number on your mental & emotional health. Imagine having a boss trying to contact you while you sleep because their time zone is on the other side of the spectrum, or several bosses nagging you at the same time. Think of a boss whom you need to carefully talk to because their cultural differences can turn your words or ideas into unintentional weapons, while at the same time working on several projects for other bosses who keep asking you about your progress. But you can use the freelancer code and simply replace “boss” with “client”, that should keep you sane for a while.

CON: No official work benefits or compensations.
** Although you can easily compensate yourself in any form you wish, which to be honest can be better than some undesired vacation with your annoying peers, you will have to handle a lot of things all by yourself, while at the same time longing for some compensations that you won’t be able to afford anymore. Think unpaid vacations and no official leave when you need to raise & take care of your newborn; or the need to manage the health insurance yourself; think handling taxes, invoices & accounting; signing contracts; marketing like crazy to make sure you still have a job tomorrow when you wake up; planning your retirement. You get the picture!

** One would say that the cons outweigh the pros of being a freelancer, but that’s not true for everyone. Each pro and con weighs differently for every one of us, so you’re the only one who can assess how much of a pro or con the above items are.

** As you can see, freelancing is far from being that perfect dream job everyone imagines it as, and definitely not a quick money solution as everyone hopes it to be. But like everything in life, there will always be exceptions to the rule. Some of you will have no problem with most of the above freelance cons. However, many of you will now probably think twice before embarking on such a journey, because you have to admit that freelancing isn’t for everyone.

** Freelancing involves making some pretty major changes in your life and in the lives of the ones surrounding you, changes that you might not be comfortable with nor ready to make, changes that can ultimately end up feeling like you’re riding an emotional roller coaster!