The Truth About Freelancing
While freelancing has become very popular there still exists some misconceptions about it. Some people don’t take it seriously and don’t consider remote jobs to be “real.” Others think it’s a fad and not something a responsible adult would do long-term.
Personally, when I tell people I’m a freelancer I usually get one of two reactions. The first is: Wow, that’s cool. Wish I could work from home, too! The second reaction is a bit less enthusiastic: Do you wear pajamas all day? (Err, sometimes…) or Do you actually do any work?
Maybe you’re not sure yourself how sustainable it can be, so I’ve addressed six of the most common myths about freelancing in order to give you the truth.
Myth #1 Freelancers get to do whatever all day
I’m going to be honest here. As a freelancer I can do what I want—sometimes. And when I say I get to “do what I want” I mean I make appointments in the middle of the day or run errands while stores are quiet. I don’t mean that I get to hop on a sailboat and drink champagne all day while everyone else is at the office (although I wouldn’t say no if I had the chance!).
I have clients who work traditional work hours and I have to be available to them on their terms. This is in case we have to Skype or go over project guidelines, or an emergency comes up with a short turnaround time. I’m also juggling more than one project in a day so my day is consciously planned out.
Occasionally I’ll watch a movie if I’m feeling spent (usually cuz I stayed up working late), or I’ll meet a friend for lunch or do some baking. But those activities definitely aren’t every day.
Myth #2 Freelancers don’t do “real” work
Some people I know still don’t consider what I do “real” work—once someone even said that I was temping! People have had to work in controlled work environments for so long that there’s still a struggle to equate flexibility with professional achievement.
The number of remote workers is rising, and by 2020 it’s predicted that at least 50% of workers in office environments will have some option of remote working available to them.
It’s becoming more common for companies to allow employees to work online, and it actually saves a lot of money on overhead costs. So for anyone to think that freelancers don’t do real work is just plain insulting.
Myth #3 You can’t make enough to support yourself and have to take side jobs or have a supportive partner
This freelancing myth is total BS. When I was in university I met many successful freelancers who made good living wages, and it was seeing their comfortable level of freedom that instilled my dream of becoming a freelancer.
A few years ago, my husband decided to go back to school, so I became the sole provider for our family. That means I cover everything including the mortgage. Obviously we’re not taking weekend trips to the Bahamas but we’re doing fine.
It takes time and determination to get yourself to the point where you have regular work you can count on, and a reliable stream of income, but it’s totally possible to survive as a freelancer— without having to eat ramen every night. In fact, I even wrote an ebook to help people start freelance proofreading—that’s how great I think freelancing is!
Myth #4 There’s no career development in freelancing
Some people believe that if you’re a freelancer you can’t go very far in your field. That’s not true. You can absolutely move your proofreading career forward to a higher level of editing, or make a lateral move into a new niche.
I always encourage people to look ahead, even if you’re perfectly content career-wise. You can’t predict the future but you can ensure your place in it by looking at trends, keeping abreast of news, and networking.
Developing your skills through courses, books, mentoring, and workshops is also essential. You can get creative and explore how your skill set would work in another industry. For example, if you want to build your proofreading services with SEO knowledge, check out courses on learning sites like Lynda.com. As a freelancer you’re able to write off any classes for your taxes, as well.
Myth #5 Freelancers are weird, introverted people who hang out in coffee shops
One of the few downsides of freelancing can be social isolation, and sometimes you find yourself like the character in this hilarious comedy piece in The New Yorker. But we’re average people just like anyone else.
In a recent Forbes study it was shown that remote workers are happier than people who work in an office all day. While it’s true many freelancers tend to be introverted, we do seek out human interaction so we don’t feel so alone, even if it’s just to be surrounded by others.
That’s why you’ll find us in coffee shops, eating lunch on a park bench or at the gym. I make a point of socializing with other parents every day after school when I pick my son up.
Myth #6 Freelancers are slaves to work
This is the opposite of thinking freelancers don’t really work. (Give us a break, yo!) It’s true that we can’t really leave work behind at the office because, well, home is our office, but it is possible to maintain a healthy work/life balance.
If you manage your time well and stay on top of your deadlines then you won’t always feel the pressure of work always “staring you down.”
An editor friend of mine turns off her laptop and keeps it out of sight when her daughter comes home from school. I keep mine on for projects that I can easily jump in and out of. I do this when my son is home because I can do a lot of proofreading in the 30 minutes it takes for dinner to cook, or while he’s playing Lego.
I don’t have to work this way, but I choose to because it helps me to manage my personal and professional life without feeling guilty, and it makes it much easier to jump into an impromptu soccer game. 🙂
Are there any myths about freelancing that you’d like addressed?