While checking my Facebook feed a little while ago, I came upon this ad for Freelance Writing Riches:
Obviously the ad is from someone who wants to sell a lifestyle. However, it just adds to the misconception that freelancing is this easy, carefree, barefoot, lifestyle.
It couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Let’s put aside the fact that the woman in the photo is sitting on an extremely rocky beach. I mean, comfort isn’t essential for anyone working full time at anything, right? I know that when I need to dig in and get work done the first thing I do is look for the most uncomfortable place to sit ever, and get to work.
Let’s put aside the fact that the woman is sitting with her laptop on the beach, fully exposed in the sun. No sun glare keeping her from reading her screen? No salty air getting into her laptop? No, this is a woman who can get the job done anywhere. Equipment be damned.
Let’s put aside the fact that unless she has a personal hotspot with her, she’s probably not connected to any sort of Internet service out there on the ocean. Now, WiFi isn’t a deal breaker, it’s not needed for all writing, but most of us use it more than once a day.
Let’s put aside the fact that it’s hard to focus on the beach. When I vacation on the beach and I sit on the balcony overlooking the ocean to work, I can’t think of a better setting. It’s where I want to be. However, it’s not where I want to be working. It’s where I want to be swimming, or reading, or walking, or playing. Good luck focusing on work while sitting on the beach. I try and I can’t.
Let’s put aside the fact that very few people will become rich while freelancing. With the right skills and the right clients you can certainly do very well for yourself, but will you become rich? No. And one of the biggest reasons is ads like the one above – ads that sell this “anyone can do it on the beach” lifestyle that’s driving down rates and creating serious competition and job scarcity.
What’s it really like to freelance?
Freelancing is a lot of things, but it’s not a day on the beach.
What really annoys me about this image is that while, yes, in all reality we could work on that beach (as rocky as it is), most of us don’t because it’s not productive. Freelancing isn’t glamorous. It’s not deadlines on the beach. It’s not toes in the water. It’s hard work. Hard. Effing. Work.
Photos like the above are the reason so many freelancers are unprepared for the reality that comes with being an independent contractor.
What’s it like to freelance?
- Freelancing is working nights and weekends because you’re overextended. It means you don’t say no to work because you want to lose a client to someone else. Also, it means you have to take on as much work as possible for the feasting portion of freelancing, because you need something fall back on during the famine.
- Freelancing means persnickety clients and mundane assignments. Not every gig is exciting. For every fun client I have, there are three more whose work isn’t very interesting. That isn’t to say the work we do sucks, just that there are times when it takes a little inspiration to sit down at your desk.
- Freelancing means chasing down payments. I know very few freelancers who sit back and collect client checks. The majority of us have to chase down a few payments each month from overdue clients. It’s not pretty and it has to be handled in a delicate, tactful, manner. However, some clients try and pull one over or will take a long time to pay. That’s just how it is.
- Freelancing means someone will always ask when you’re going to get a real job. Because unless you get in your car and go to an office every day, you’re not working.
- Freelancing means working at midnight because you’re taking care of the family during the day. Think the kids are going to play by themselves while you’re working in the next room? Yeah. Good luck with that.
Yeah it’s flexible but…
Freelancing is awesome. I’ve been working as an independent contractor since 2002 and I have no intention of ever going back. It’s flexible, I can pick and choose who I work with, and I can work anywhere I like. However, it’s not laptops on the beach. It’s a business and has to be treated as such. Yes, technically freelancers can work anywhere, but it’s not always that easy.
It’s never that easy.