10 Ups and Downs of Freelancing

10 Ups and Downs of Freelancing

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Freelancing provides more freedom than any other type of work structure. With that freedom come the responsibilities of ownership and reputation. When we choose to freelance, we are choosing to be self-reliant and responsible for our own destinies. We can define success on our own terms. Just as there are wonderful aspects to freelancing, there are harsh realities as well. As with anything, to enjoy the freedoms, you need to pay the price for them. Freelancing is not a free ride to success.

The Ups of Freelancing

Number One. You can start freelancing for little cost. The cost to start a freelance business is minimal or non-existent, depending upon what you already have in equipment and connectivity.

Number Two. You can do more than one thing. You can illustrate and design. You can be a social media marketer and a photographer. You can work with clients and be a maker.

Number Three. You can start part-time and develop into full time. It’s easy to begin a side business while you’re employed by taking on freelance projects. You can work with a partner or establish a creative firm of your own.

Number Four. You can work where you want to and when you want to. From home, at an office or co-working space, at your favorite coffee shop, at the library. Since you are not clocking in and out during an employer’s business hours, you get to determine your own schedule. As long as you meet the agreed-upon project deadlines, it does not matter when you do the work.

Number Five. You can work on what you want to. You have the freedom to say “no” to a project or client and not have to take on something you don’t want to do. This means you can enjoy your work as much as you enjoy your life aside from work, seeking and accepting projects that make you happy. For many of us freelancers, our work is fun for us, and we actually look forward to Mondays.

The Downs of Freelancing

Number One. Income ebbs and flows. Even after you become established with a steady stream of clients, you will earn more in some months than others. Having money in savings and a spending plan (budget) will enable you to pay your expenses during leaner months. Ideally, you should build and maintain enough in savings to cover 3 months worth of living expenses to offset times of sparse income.

Number Two. You will pay a higher percentage of income tax than if you are employed. Employers pay half of an employee’s incomes taxes in the form of payroll taxes. As a self-employed worker, you will be responsible for paying all of your income taxes. You will also pay the IRS quarterly — estimated tax payments — in addition to filing your 1040 in April. The amount you owe will be determined by your net profit from your business.

Number Three. You need to get out and market yourself, network and make connections. You can’t acquire clients unless you go looking for them. Many freelancers are quiet and introverted when it comes to self-promotion. This must be overcome in order to be successful. Do what is necessary to get the word out about your creative services.

Number Four. You will work more than 40 hours in a week a lot of the time. Time is a cost of being a freelance business owner. The ability to manage creative projects and business activities requires planning and managing your time well. Don’t be deceived into thinking that you will come and go by the clock. It’s your choice to work 5 extra hours on a Friday evening in order to have all of Saturday off from your work, or to take Friday off and do some work over the weekend. You will work a lot of hours as a business owner, but you have an amazing amount of flexibility.

Number Five. Not all clients are trustworthy. It’s sad to say, but true. There are difficult, over-demanding, and non-communicative clients out there. There are clients who disappear and don’t pay you. Put systems and policies in place in order to minimize and avoid these types as much as possible. Establish criteria for your ideal client and look for those who fit your criteria.

The “free” in freelancing relates to being free — to not being tied down to any one commitment, set schedule or working relationship. It does not mean you work for free. It is not license to do whatever you feel like doing if you are serious about building a freelance career. You will not earn a living if you do not do the necessary work. Think of freelancing more as doing what you need to do, but in your own way and schedule. If you take care of business well, you can build a life that balances work and personal time, pay your bills, and pursue your interests and passions. Start with being realistic about the whole freelance picture.

Your Turn

What are your upsides and downsides of freelancing? Share your thoughts in the comments.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Alvalyn Lundgren

Alvalyn Lundgren is the founder and design director at Alvalyn Creative, an independent practice near Thousand Oaks, California. She creates visual branding, publications and books for business, entrepreneurs and authors. She is the creator of Freelance Road Trip — a business roadmap program for creative freelancers. Contact her for your visual branding, graphic and digital design needs. Join her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and subscribe to her free monthly newsletter.

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