Freelance Zero to Hero
Freelancing has always been a common “hobby” for creative
professionals like designers and writers, but in the last
a decade or so, creative pros have started leaving the nine-to-five
life in droves.
Now, this post isn’t meant to lure you to the “dark side” of
freelancing, but to explain why it’s become the fastest-growing
a professional group of our time (and will continue to be).
But if you’ve even thought about taking the leap, now maybe
the best time in history to do so.
Why has freelancing become so popular?
Surprise! The answer is tech.
Every aspect of workplace logistics now has an app that lets
you join up and chime in from anywhere.
And if you can work from a laptop anywhere in the world, why
bother spending time at a desk?
To add fuel to the fire, much of the work traditionally done by
creative professionals (like web design), has been greatly sped
up by similar technological advancements.
This gives freelancers an all-new ability to take on more than
one project at a time. Leading many creative professionals
wondering: Why to work for one person/company/project, when
I can now work on many at the same time?
These shifts in tech have led to a similar shift in attitude. Years
ago, the idea of leaving a stable job to pursue your “craft” was
*cough* stupid. Freelancing was something you did at night
before bed, like a hobby or after-school project — not a career.
Yet more and more people are taking the leap into the
unknown. Leaving their nine-to-five cubical cells for the
freedom of becoming a digital nomad.
And freelancers aren’t the only ones who find the freelancing
life seductive. Companies are following suit.
Companies are driving the shift to freelance
In an interview by PBS, author Richard Greenwald stated that
companies as large and prestigious as NASA and IBM have
been turning to freelancers at an accelerated rate. And they
aren’t alone, with the likes of Pinterest, OpenTable, Panasonic,
Unilever, NBC, and many (many) more right beside them.
I’ve found that there are 3 core reasons why freelancers make
sense for business:
Although many freelancers charge a premium rate, the
vast majority undercharge for their work (stop it!). These
low rates make it extremely attractive for companies to
hire freelance workers.
Many freelancers enjoy their flexible lifestyle, and companies
are no different. The cost of hiring a full-time employee
stretches beyond salary and insurance, including time and
commitment in training, culture, etc. With contract workers,
companies can cut these costs and gain the flexibility to
hire/fire at any time.
Having both freelanced and hired contractors for a company,
I can say that freelancers work faster. Maybe it’s the freelancer’s
sense of urgency about completing the project and moving
on. Maybe it’s the fact that the business can skip traditional
onboarding/training. Maybe it’s that freelancers can skip
meetings and internal politicking. But whatever the cause,
freelance projects often move much faster than in-house jobs.
All of which means that freelancers can now blend their flexible
lifestyle with the opportunity to work with some of the largest
and most respected companies in the world.
It’s not all roses
I’ve spent plenty of time on both sides of the fence, being a
full-time freelancer and a full-time desk jockey. Both have
their pros and cons, but here are a few things you should
know before jumping into the freelance world.
They suck no matter what, but they suck harder for contract
workers. As a self-employed contractor, you’re not only
responsible for paying your own income taxes, but also
To make it more complicated, you must also be prepared to
track all money going in and out of your business to prove it.
You can’t count on HR to handle your monies. You are HR.
This problem is typically a symptom of early-day freelancing,
but you will overcome it. Not necessarily because you’ll
always have work lined up (although you might), but because
you’ll start to charge enough to keep you floating (happily)
Still, it’s a bit harder to manage ongoing expenses like rent,
utilities, food, etc. without a consistent paycheck. This is why
I recommend starting your freelance career as a side project.
When you aren’t worried about basic living expenses, you’ll be
more likely to take on better projects (as opposed to whoever’s
willing to give you money).
Most freelancers who’ve been doing it a while will agree:
Freelancing can be lonely.
At first, it’s nice not having to leave your house or see another
human being for days at a time, but eventually, you begin to
miss the team environment of your office.
I learned that the best way to combat this was to simply put
yourself in additional social situations. Instead of meeting
clients over the phone, offer to meet in person or at least
over video chat. Instead of working from home every day,
head down to your favorite coffee shop, or better yet, a local
Is it worth it?
Yes. There’s nothing more empowering than knowing that
every dollar you make is an exact reflection of the work you
put in. If you work a few extra hours over the weekend, that’s
more money going into your bank account — you can’t say
that for your typical salaried job.
Plus, many of the pitfalls of freelancing can be resolved by
simple preparation and planning. Yes, there will be hurdles,
but when aren’t there?
Wait for the second part.
How to find freelance work?
source: John MW