Want to Become a Freelancer? Here's the Truth Behind 7 Common Misconceptions
Three and a half years ago, I quit my job to go full-time freelance. My initial thought was, “Goodbye commute, hello sweatpants,” but that’s clearly not the only perk of branching out on your own — let’s just say I haven’t looked back since.
I had freelanced on the side before deciding to make it my career, so I wasn’t a total stranger to solopreneurship. But I had heard a lot of myths about going freelance that I learned, over time, weren’t as true as I thought they’d be. If you’re looking to become a freelancer full time, here are seven misconceptions to shake first.
You should strive for the same income each month
Before I left my full-time job, my biggest fear was having an inconsistent income. And it is true that the amount of money I earn varies month to month. Initially, this was really stressful, but eventually I got over the idea that I needed to bring in the same amount of revenue every single month. Instead, I set quarterly income goals. I often find that one month may be slow, but it’ll be followed by an extra busy month, and then the numbers balance out. I still hit my budgeting and savings targets, which gives me peace of mind.
You'll never get a raise
It took me a while to learn this, but because my income doesn’t come from a single source, I can increase my rates when I need to. While this is a bit easier to do with new clients, I’ve found that asking for a pay raise from existing clients is worthwhile. For clients with whom I’ve worked for a while, I can make the case that I’ve proven my worth. With others, I may have agreed with too low of a rate to start, and can’t afford to keep working on a project without a pay bump. Of course, not every client will say yes. But getting comfortable with making the request is how you’ll bring in more income over time.
Paying for benefits eats up all your income
Having a steady paycheck as well as access to employer-sponsored benefits like health insurance and a 401(k) are what often keeps people from going out on their own. But the cost doesn’t have to be prohibitive. I factor in the costs of my benefits when setting my rates.
Rather than just charge however much I’d like to earn in take-home pay, I also consider the costs of health care, how much I want to add to my retirement plan, as well as covering the costs of life insurance.
You're not a business owner if you work solo
Even though I’ve been freelancing for a couple of years, sometimes I forget that I’m technically a business owner. When I’m not writing, I act as my own sales, accounting, marketing and operations team. I pay self-employment taxes, have business expenses and hire people to help me manage my workload when need be — just like any other business.
Your time is flexible
When I had a 9-to-5 job, I would say things like: “If I ever work for myself, I’m going to go to the gym on my lunch break.” Since I started freelancing full time, I’ve worked out a total of two times during the day.
While it’s true that freelancing means being able to work on the weekends or late at night if you prefer, I’ve found that most freelancers want to work when their friends and family are working. So while I have the ability to take a long lunch, run errands and go to a doctor’s appointment during the day, those are working hours I’ll need to make up later on. That’s why I prefer to stick to a traditional work schedule as much as possible.
You don't have a boss
Before I started freelancing full time, the thought of not having a boss was very appealing. And even though I work for myself now, at the end of the day, my clients call the shots. So while you can set your own schedule, rates and boundaries, you want to make your clients happy so that they want to keep giving you work.
You don't need child care
Even though I don't have kids of my own yet, ultimately my goal is to balance a freelance career with parenthood. And I’ve heard too many stories from parents who’ve worked from home for the past 18 months to pretend I can focus fully on work while also taking care of kids. When the time comes, I will definitely be accounting for child care in my budget.
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