From the minute I started freelance writing, I was hooked. Writing gives me a way to express myself, be creative, connect with interesting people—and get paid to do it. What’s not to like?
I anticipated the freedom and flexibility that freelancing would bring, but there were also some surprises that came with joining the freelance movement.
1. Freelancing Draws Out Your Authentic Self
I’m putting this one first because it continues to amaze me. When you work for someone else, in someone else’s environment, you can’t help but take some of that environment on as part of your persona. But as a freelancer, you are your business, you are your brand, your career is what you make of it.
When you start freelancing, you quickly find that there are aspects of yourself that you want to ditch, as well as aspects that you want to cultivate and grow. Freelancing is an incredible opportunity to take an honest look at your life and see how things are going. It’s also a vehicle to take a look at the person you are, and the person you want to be, and figure out how to bridge the distance between them.
2. There’s a Huge Community of Freelancers
When I started freelancing, I knew a couple of other freelance writers, but I had yet to learn that there are freelancers in every field—people who are building businesses of one doing just about anything you can imagine. Yes, there are web developers, graphic designers and writers, but I’ve also met freelance teachers, attorneys, coaches and consultants, freelance public speakers, engineers, event planners, app developers, musicians, and lots more.
The freelance economy is exploding right now, with 53 million freelancers in the U.S. alone. That’s a lot of people choosing freelancing over working for someone else.
3. Work Doesn’t Have to be a Drag
I’m immensely grateful that, as a freelancer, I get to do work that is aligned with my values. Even when I’m stressed and the pressure is on, I’m aware that I’m doing work that I love. This has been an incredible surprise. After years of having work be a timeclock-driven affair building someone else’s business, freelancing has taught me that work can be full of joy and deeply fulfilling.
4. There’s Money to Be Made As a Freelancer
This one wasn’t a total surprise because, from the time I started freelancing, I had the feeling it was what I was supposed to be doing, and that the work would always be there. But, I’ve found that there is plenty of work, and money, to go around. Don’t get caught in the trap of freelance scarcity. More than ever, companies, people and publications need great content, websites, apps, events and guidance.
5. There’s a Fine Balance Being Both the Boss and the Employee
Sometimes I’m the fun boss who cancels work and takes the employee to the beach. Other times I’m the hardcore boss who forces myself to work overtime. The trick is, when I’m the employee working overtime, to remember that there will be a beach day soon, and, when I’m the employee splashing in the surf, to remember that there will soon be a time to buckle down and take care of business. Having this balanced perspective makes the job of both the boss and employee easier.
6. There Are A LOT of Little Details to Take Care Of
Yep, I’m a freelance writer, but I’m also a bookkeeper, a social media manager, a content strategist, a marketing director, a website designer, a community liaison, a designer. Basically, if there’s something that needs to be done for my freelance business, I’m the one who does it. And, there is always something that needs to be done.
7. The Harder You Work, the Luckier You Get
Freelancing is all about hustling. Not in the old school way of hustling being a scam, but in the new school way of hustling to make good things happen: making connections, getting stuff done, strategizing plans, setting goals, dreaming big and chasing those dreams. I’ve found that the level you’re willing to hustle is tied to the level of freelance success you’ll have. There are lots of ways to create your own freelance luck, but embracing the hustle is key.
What about you? What surprises have you had as a freelancer?
Photo: Marina del Castell (CC-BY-20)