The Realities Of Freelancing
In case you didn't know, I've been working freelance as a social media coordinator since my return from the US in September. Coming home from abroad with only a rough idea of what I'd like to do was very, very scary - and the first point I'd like to make is that being scared is a pretty natural part of freelancing, as far as I can tell!
Lately, there is a real romanticism around the idea of freelancing. "Side hustles" and "digital nomadism" are both terms having a real moment right now - so many posts and articles seem to be popping up, with the general consensus that you should be turning your passion into a profession.
I don't think there's anything inherently negative in this idea, but I do feel like this discussion needs a little balance. Going freelance isn't going to magically mean you'll start leading a super glamorous lifestyle overnight, complete with close proximity to the beach and lots of sexy lattes... In actuality, there's a lot of inbox anxiety, struggling to ignore work tasks in the evenings and pushing yourself to get organised.
I feel like I've learnt a lesson an hour since I started out, so here are my thoughts on what the reality of freelancing is really like.
UNCERTAINTY IS SOMETHING YOU HAVE TO GET USED TO
After being used to a normal 9 to 5, with a steady income, the fluctuations of being self-employed can come as a shock. Pay cheques vary month to month. Would-be clients might change their minds. You have to ration when you're going to open your inbox, because reading a work email at 6am isn't the most zen way to start the day. Sometimes I catch myself thinking, Strewth, this is kinda frightening.
Though I now think that job certainty in any workplace is no longer the "given" it used to be, it can still be stressful to realise you cannot predict what the next year will bring in any way.
YOU HAVE TO PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE
If you had told me this time last year that I'd be able to walk into a business and offer my services, I doubt I would have believed me. This was exactly what happened when I approached my second client. Even though I'd known her for years, it was still frightening to suggest that someone should hire me; my natural introvert self was pretty terrified.
Putting myself out there was do-able, however, because I knew what is like to be asked to work together thanks to blogging... and honestly, I've had so many companies get it totally wrong. Once I realised that I was contacting brands that I loved and had supported for a while, it made the whole "putting myself out there" thing feel far less scary... though I know it's something I'll never be 100% used to.
...AND KNOW WHAT YOU ARE WORTH
It's tempting to head out and work for pennies, just to make sure you secure the job. It didn't click straight away that, duh, you should account for the tax you need to pay, the qualifications you have and that freelancing is rarely a full time deal. A frank chat with my financial advisor (my dad) put me right and though it felt weird to quote what I wanted to be paid, rather than it be dictated by my employer, it's so important to get it right first time.
WORKING FROM HOME ISN'T ALWAYS AS RAD AS IT SOUNDS
Working from home feels, for me at least, exactly like doing my uni essays. There are interruptions, I get stir crazy sometimes, and it can be hard to communicate to friends and fam that although I am at home, I am definitely still at work. What's more, though I definitely could type away in my pyjamas in bed, I do not do my best work that way. Plus, being at home all day can get a little lonely... I work in one of my clients' shop and office a couple of days a week and really like that I get the interaction, as spending every day at home would not work for me.
The other issue with working from home is that there are so many possible distractions. Though it's tempting to say I'll have a break for a bit and go take photos for Instagram, I have to be my own boss and tell myself, girl, this work's not gonna magically do itself. I'm definitely getting more used to it, but some days I miss the motivational buzz of an office environment.
...AND YOU HAVE TO MAKE SO MANY DECISIONS ON YOUR OWN
Though my clients are there to give the final thumbs up or thumbs down for certain aspects of the job, I do miss having someone around to check in with. Whether I'm working on some tricky-to-phrase copy, trying to learn a vital bit of tech how-to or just wanting to sit and chat about the ins and outs of freelance life, being freelance often means I'm often just figuring things out on my own. Though I know it's making me get so much better at listening to my gut, it's so different from being able to ask a colleague to chat with me to help me figure a problem out.
AND EVERY FREELANCE JOURNEY LOOKS SO DIFFERENT
Maybe you'll hate it. Maybe you'll love it. If you can't make the switch because it doesn't make financial sense, perhaps it's something to put on the back burner while you gain experience and save to try in the future. If it's fear holding you back, I would still encourage you to try; just promise your Auntie Anna that you won't go in expecting a glossy, Pinterest-worthy experience. At the end of the day, my freelance journey will look nothing like yours, and nor should it; what I like so much is that my job and my day are so totally unique, and despite the struggles, this really is a good thing.
And there you have it - my honest thoughts on the realities of freelancing. Ultimately, I absolutely love what I do - but hopefully you've enjoyed hearing a unpolished version of what being self employed feels like! Are you freelance at the moment - or are you considering it? I'm really curious how many people out there are interested!