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While there is no doubt that I love what I do, sometimes I dread getting asked what I do for a living.

Why? Because after I finish explaining what a freelancer is and the type of tasks I do as part of my business, I often get a number of comments along the lines of “that must be so awesome.”

While my job is awesome, the majority of people outside of the freelance or small business industry tend to idealize what I do because of the many preconceived notions associated with freelancing.

Some of the most common include:

  • Must be nice to be your own boss
  • You don’t have to answer to anyone
  • I have time to do favours for other people
  • I have lots of free time
  • I can drop what I am working on at any time

While there are many benefits to the freelance lifestyle, there is also another side that many people do not often see. They don’t see the late nights or the short deadlines as well as some of the issues associated with being paid on time.

The truth is that freelancing does come with its challenges and the goal of this piece is to bring them to light, and let people in on some of the pitfalls and difficulties associated with the freelance lifestyle.

10 things most people don’t know about the freelance lifestyle

1. Freelancing is a lifestyle, not a job or career

When people make the decision to become a freelancer it will literally change their life. 

The structure of working a regular job is instantly gone and for many people it is a challenge to reproduce that structure with their freelance aspirations.

2. Freelancing can be lonely

It is not uncommon for days to go by where freelancers do not talk to anyone. No calls, no emails, just you and your work. 

And, considering that most people leave a more traditional work environment to start freelancing, not having that simple day to day interaction with co-workers is a much more difficult transition than most people think.

Freelancers should think about getting a dog, they are great co-workers!

3. There will be some late nights

As I write this post, it is now 11:51pm on a Monday night. 

From time to time deadlines do catch up with you and when you are busy, tasks such as blogging, building social media profiles, doing research, and working on projects go well past 5pm.

Good thing freelancers also make their own work schedules!

4. Cabin fever is real

Most freelancers work out of their home. While you may have a separate office for your work, there is really no work/home separation. 

This means that there will be days when you don’t leave the house and, in some instances, you will get the urge to leave just to get out of the house. Being at home all the time can really get to you some days.

Thank god for coffee shops and libraries!

5. If you don’t produce you don’t get paid

This is one of the biggest challenges of becoming a freelancer. Unlike having a job, you cannot have an off day and still get paid. 

You have to work when you are sick and when you are not feeling your best. Sometimes this means working at night or on weekends to catch up for days lost to illness or other unforeseen circumstances.

Text Optimizer has been a godsend for me when it comes to still being able to create content even when I am stuck. I use it to find topics, write and optimize content:

Text Optimizer

6. There are no guarantees

Freelancing often has many peaks and valleys. There is no guarantee when the next project or client will fall into your lap.

Therefore, freelancers need to constantly be on the lookout for new projects and opportunities.

Long term contracts with clients are gold!

7. Motivation can elude you

Sometimes it is difficult to remain motivated. There are many things that can serve as distractions and on some days it seems that you are willing to do anything else but the work that is in front of you. 

This can not only prolong your day but also impact your overall productivity. In this sense, if you want to be a successful freelancer, motivation must come from within.

8. Risk is a factor

While there is some degree of risk associated with anything that you do, becoming a freelancer has a number of risks that can impact your standard of living. Freelancers do not have insurance, benefits, guaranteed income, or EI.

To find clients, you will have to be all over the web which comes with another risk of identity theft and fraud. Make sure to use tools like Aura to keep an eye on your accounts and stay safe.

9. Lots of expenses

These are lots of things that freelancers will have to pay for out of their pocket. And, it can become nerve racking waiting for the next check in the mail. You will have to cover all the expenses, from costs to build your own website to on-going marketing expenses.

Thank god for partners with great benefit packages and consistent pay cheques!

9. Time management is critical

Effective time management sets the stage for your productivity and your ability to manage as many projects as possible. 

Time management is directly correlated to your earning potential as well. For these reasons, freelancers must be diligent with their ability to schedule projects and business tasks.

11. It’s a one person show

There is so much more to freelancing than just working on projects from clients. Freelancing is a business and there are two sides to it:

  • Work in the business (working on client projects)
  • Working on the business (building your business and expanding your capabilities)

Many people forget that freelancers also have to handle all the administrative tasks associated with running a business. They include prospecting, client management, answering emails and phone calls, social media management, invoicing, tracking expenses, doing taxes, website management, marketing, and planning.

These are only a few of the insights into the other and often less than sexy aspect of being a freelance professional. With the good also comes the bad and, and sometimes frustrating elements that are part of taking the initiative and building your own business.

Freelancing can also be VERY REWARDING! 

It’s rewarding in the form of:

  • Being your own boss
  • Having more free time
  • A flexible work schedule
  • Choosing how many projects you want to take on
  • The type of work you want to do
  • And so much more!