As a seasoned freelancer (ahem, just over six months) are things different from what I expected? Was I taken in by any myths? Do these myths actually exist or are they just something for people to complain about?
Here’s my own personal take on the situation (because heaven knows, what we need now is yet another opinion piece!).
Myth 1: You’ll be able to work in your pyjamas. Throw away all those awful suits! Every day is dress-down Friday!
- What they say: Not true. You need to get into a routine early on. You’ll constantly be in meetings. Dress up as if you were in an office. You’ll never get work unless you’re dressed up to the nines.
- What I say: Look, it’s really up to you. Personally, I like the routine I’ve set myself. But that’s me – I was never one to stay in my PJs all day. My work clothes, however, are a far cry from what I had to wear in the corporate world (today’s outfit: jeans and a rugby shirt). If I have meetings, of course I’ll dress up. If I don’t, well, I prefer to be comfortable. Just use a bit of common sense, don’t go to meetings in yoga pants, and I think you’ll be fine.
Myth 2: You have so much free time! You won’t know what to do with yourself. Want to take a day off? Do it!
- What they say: Working for yourself means you never switch off. When work comes in, you have to do it. You’ll work weekends, holidays, until midnight, every night. If you’re not, you’re doing it wrong.
- What I say: Yes, work will come in at unexpected times and yes, there’s always something you can be doing. That’s the nature of the beast. One of the reasons companies tend to hire freelancers is because of their flexibility and ability to turn things around quickly. That doesn’t mean you have to chain yourself to the desk, waiting for the next bit of client work to come in.The other week I decided to move my desk up to the mountains. A day in the sun, working on flexible items (pipeline development, research, conference calls), and a “day off” in the bargain.
Myth 3: Gone are the days of stress. No more boss, no more being a powerpoint monkey. You’re your own boss, now. You get to call the shots.
- What they say: Now you have clients, you have lots of little bosses, each with their own peccadilloes and nuances. They’ll be as demanding as your old boss. Client work, on top of managing your own business? You’re going to FAIL. Stress, stress everywhere!
- What I say: I’m not going to lie. Running your own business is stressful. Anyone who tells you differently really is lying. However, it’s a different type of stress. Client deadlines aside, I decide what to do, how to do it, and when to do it by. If I don’t meet my own expectations, achieve my objectives, hit my targets, it’s my own fault. I’m the one who suffers. I’m the one who doesn’t get paid. I’m the one who worries about how to pay rent.The stress I’m under now isn’t totally dependent on other people. It’s not about internal politics or getting a promotion or a boss who’s unreasonable. This stress is about me learning new things every day, about balancing budgets and bills, about finding new clients, about dealing with massive rejection. Stress. But good stress. Different stress.
Myth 4: Find a job you love and you’ll never have to work again. Work isn’t really ‘work’ anymore – you can focus on what you love doing.
- What they say: Starting up as a freelancer is the busiest time you’ll spend. You’re running your own business now. If you don’t concentrate on selling yourself, finding clients, and managing your time, you won’t be able to do the thing you love. You’re certain to have to go back to a desk job.
- What I say: Yes, while you may have one passion which inspired you to become a freelancer, you do need to spend time on the ‘other stuff’ too. But honestly, the ‘other stuff’ – the admin, the accounts, the working out how to successfully sell your business – it’s all part of the adventure.You may not love accounting but if you link it back to what you want to do (“by doing this, I’m giving myself 3 more months of being a freelancer”) then it just becomes part of your day to day life. And don’t listen to the nay-sayers, you’ll still have time to work on the thing you love, too.
Myth 5: This time, next year, we’ll be millionaires! Freelance = cash rich
- What they say: You need to build up your client base, experience, and network before you can properly start making money as a freelancer. No one makes a profit straight away. In fact, did you know, 50% of businesses fail in the first… etc etc
- What I say: Yeah, even I can’t debunk this one. You’re not going to be rich – yet. But the possibilities are endless if you work hard, have passion, and know when to say no (that’s a post for another day)
What do you think? What are the biggest myths you’ve heard about freelancing, entrepreneurship, or business ownership?
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