Busting Myths About Freelancing

Busting Myths About Freelancing

One of the challenges of writing this blog - even if only on a weekly basis - is that sometimes, you see a problem arise, and you find that the greatest single factor in that situation....is you.

In a recent conversation with a colleague, I heard the remark that as a result of one of my recent posts, this individual decided to leave their job and return to freelancing. In this person's speech, sadly, I heard all of the cliches that I tend to hear when people talk about freelancing  - "You're not tied to a particular employer"; "You can work in your pajamas" - in short, some of the very cliches you will hear others say and remind yourself, somewhat cynically, that nothing is ever that easy.

And in all honesty, it is not. But if you thought it was, you probably would not be reading this blog, would you?

So much like that show on Discovery Channel (and in celebration of the new exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry), I will be busting several myths about freelancing, mostly because that has been a primary source of income while I'm job stalking. Unlike that show, there's no crash test dummy named Buster, no torsos made from ballistics gel, and sadly, no explosions.

  • You're not tied to a particular time schedule - well, yes, somewhat. If I want to put off working on a project until the evening, that's OK. However, given that most potential clients/employers have regular business hours between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm, it's often in my best interest to keep my days relatively focused on those hours. My usual day is 7:30 am to 3:30 pm, but only because I gain an hour not taking the CTA downtown, and more importantly - I've always been an early riser. Thankfully, it also means that it is easier to "make up" time (so if I'm sick on a Friday, I can use Saturday or Sunday as a work day). Work scheduling is more flexible, but at a cost.
  • You avoid pesky office politics - allow me to rephrase and handle that in a positive light: sometimes, you're dealing with a mixture of personalities. In the office, you tend to deal with those personalities in real time, whereas as a freelancer, you are dealing with them remotely. However, having "people skills" is still incredibly critical either way, especially when there is an assumption that your time may be perceived as "open". Handling diverse personality types is always a critical skill to have, but one which I continue to refine as I'm working with different companies. (Thankfully, one advantage is that I'm learning how to deal with different types by being exposed to different personality types)
  • You have much more time to do what you want to do - not necessarily; as a freelancer, I'm doing two things: the work that pays the bills, and the networking/calls/follow up that helps me acquire the work that pays the bills. Part of my current "dilemma" is attempting to decide whether to move towards a freelance/self-employed small business model, or stay within the "traditional" work model. Either way, though, there's much work to be done, and many people who talk about the "fun" life of a freelancer may not be seeing the full challenge.
  • Working for someone else is a disservice to yourself - many articles attempting to focus on entrepreneurship will encourage people to consider whether working full-time is somehow detrimental to well-being. But traditional office jobs have benefits, the greatest of which is that there are other people to handle a company's accounting, payroll taxes, etc. Starting a small company and/or freelancing definitely have benefits for those willing to take the responsibility and keep everything aligned and moving, but for some...it can be a little daunting.
  • You can work in your pajamas - when I tweeted this article (focusing on, well, staying focused when working at home), I received some negative feedback for the idea that you should "dress the part" when freelancing. For me, it's more of a practicality - I don't necessarily put on a shirt and tie (in fact, I'm more than willing to work in a Doctor Who t-shirt and shorts, weather permitting), but if I know that my client contacts are active between 9 and 5, and I have to head out to meet them, having that shower/shave/grooming first thing in the morning means that changing into more professional gear....is a snap. (And if I'm working at 2 am, which is rare, then yes, of course I'm working in my pajamas).

I hope that today's post isn't seen as excessive negative or anti-freelancing: if it weren't for some great freelance opportunities (and the recruiters who have helped make them available), I would not be staying afloat.  Consider this my way of "thinking out loud" about starting a big enough small business - after all the two professional niches I would like to engage with (non-profits and comics/popular culture) may warrant me moving in that direction...but don't be surprised as I continue to submit my resume for your traditional 9 to 5 position.

But what do you think? Any words of advice, or insights you can share? Then please submit them in the comments below. And as always, you are welcome to connect with me via Linked In (just let me know you're doing so via Job Stalker and check out my other online work (and contact me) via http://www.gordondymowski.com

And as always, thanks for reading!


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    Way to go, Gordon. I thoroughly enjoyed your article. I work as a freelancer too. At my end of the pond (from South Africa), life is no different. My friends, family and random people I meet all seem to share those very misconceptions you so beautifully busted today :) Your responses absolutely echo what I have been explaining (futile as it was) for years. I am soooo sharing your article with my entire mailing list. Thanks!

  • Thanks, Debbie - glad you enjoyed it!

  • As a freelance court reporter, I agree with everything you've said. I'm wondering though if you ever get the comment I frequently hear of, "It must be great to be able to take time off whenever you want." It is apparently not clear to most people that those who work for themselves work for themselves. That means no paid vacation days or sick days or personal days. If I'm not working, I'm not making money and I can't pay the bills. I would LOVE to be an employee so I could have all the perks that go along with being an employee, things like BENEFITS and having taxes taken out of my check, portions of which are met by the employer. Unfortunately, that's not the way the business model in my industry has been built so I have no choice but to freelance. And the real kicker is that, since we're not employees, we have no "say" as to how we are paid or what expenses get reimbursed, etc. We couldn't form a union if we wanted to because none of us are employees. Alas, if I had known those things before starting my education, I might have chosen a different career path.

    Thank you for spreading the word about what it's really like to freelance. Maybe you've opened some eyes today.

  • In reply to stenochick:

    Stenochick - thanks for the comment! I wrote this not to discourage freelancers, but to slightly deflate the sometimes overstated reasons why people *should* do one over the other. Each has their benefits - Gordon

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