It’s been one hell of a year for freelancers. Given the challenges we’ve been through, it’s worth remembering how tough the pandemic has been for so many freelance workers and self-employed people. Not only have we been faced with limited government support for freelancers in certain sectors (including events, entertainment, music and the arts) but we’ve also had to struggle through the fatigue and mental health challenges of coping with month after month of lockdown.
So, first off, let’s just pause to say well done to every self-employed person who’s made it through the challenges of the past few months. You’re doing a great job!
But, secondly, let’s look at why freelancing is still an exceptional career path for determined, self-reliant and well-organised people that have a marketable talent.
1. More control over your career direction
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the employer/employee relationship is in dire need of a refresh. While many large corporate employers were understanding, flexible and open to letting staff work remotely during lockdown, many of these same companies are now insisting that employees get back to a rigid ‘5 days working from the office’ routine. This ‘we pay your salary, so you do what we say’ approach is something that most freelancers have willingly chosen to opt out of – and for good reason.
As a freelancer, you choose where and when you work – and base that on what’s convenient to your working routine. Ultimately, that’s a key benefit of being self-employed. You answer to yourself, and have the freedom and flexibility that goes with this.
As a freelancer:
- You’re the boss and you decide the direction of the business
- It’s you who decides what your job will be and when (and where) you will work
- You control the destiny of your career and the only limitation is your ambition, the available opportunities and your skill set.
2. Less travel and commuting to work
The switch to remote working over lockdown had a huge impact on the number of people commuting to work. Suddenly, there was no need for city-based workers to rise at dawn and squeeze themselves into an over-packed commuter train, crammed in like sleepy sardines. And studies have shown that many workers have placed a huge amount of value on this lack of commute.
Freelancers, however, have been rejecting the daily commute for years. As a self-employed, remote-working freelancer, you can choose to work wherever you want to – and that’s certainly one of the key benefits that first attracted me to the freelance life.
When you’re a cloud-based freelancer who’s set up for remote working:
- There’s no need to travel to one office/workplace or to be a daily commuter
- You save money on train fares and petrol costs etc.
- You can be more sustainable, green and cut down on your carbon footprint
- You can stay safer in the post-Covid world by avoiding regular use of public transport
3. More choice over your clients and customers
When you’re an employee in a big organisation, there’s very little choice around which customers and stakeholders you end up working with. There’s good and bad in any customer base, of course, but it’s the bad apples that usually end up causing most of your everyday headaches.
You may build brilliant working relationships with some of the good customers, but there’s also the chance that the really challenging ones will begin to test your patience – and, as an employee, there’s little you can do to change this situation.
When you’re a freelancer:
- You choose which companies and which people you will work with
- You’re not forced to work with ‘nightmare clients’ and can sack any problematic ones if the negatives of the relationship get too much
- You can forge great working relationships with people who you like and really enjoy working with
- Overall, your everyday working experience is more positive and enjoyable
4. A more direct financial reward for your hard work
Money should never be your sole driver for taking on any career – the pure acquisition of wealth is not going to make you happy. But when you’ve worked hard, done a good job and brought revenue into the company, it’s nice if some of that income can be shared with you.
As an employee, you’ll be counting on discretionary and annual bonuses to top up your usual monthly salary. Or a possible payrise if you tick the right boxes and keep the boss sweet. But as a freelancer, there’s a far more direct link between the hard work you put in and the financial reward you enjoy at the end of the project.
For financially astute freelancers:
- When you work hard, find the right clients and set the right price points, you have the potential to generate excellent earnings
- There’s a direct correlation between the effort you put in and the size of the reward you get out
- You benefit from the reward as soon as the invoice is paid – with no waiting around for a year-end bonus
5. A more flexible lifestyle and work/life balance
Burn-out is a common issue in many industries. Workers are under increasing pressure to work longer hours, answer out-of-hours emails and calls, and meet increasingly unrealistic productivity targets. The recent Brewdog story of employees working under a ‘culture of fear’ is evidence of this kind of toxic environment. This constant pressure to ‘do more for the good of the company’ may sound good to the CEO (who’s benefitting from the profits and the tasty dividend payments). But it’s not such a great outcome for the exhausted and stressed salaried worker.
Being able to step back, work less hours and reduce my stress levels was one of the fundamental reasons for me choosing the freelance life. When you’re fully in control of your career and your working day, you can set aside far more time for self care.
With the increasing awareness of the impact that work-related stress has on our mental health, being able to improve your work/life balance is an incredible benefit for freelancers to enjoy. Mindfulness in the workplace is helping companies to get more in tune with these needs, but when you work for yourself, you have the means to practise self-care in a far more flexible and meaningful way.
As a freelancer you can:
- Focus on your own wellbeing and mindfulness – and make time in the day to rest
- Take the time to exercise and stay healthy, rather than sitting at your desk all day
- Spend more quality time with your family, friends and loved ones, by planning your workload and your day more effectively
- Choose to take a morning or a day off – because you can and don’t need anyone’s permission to practise this self-care
Think you want to be a freelancer?
Are you starting to see the undeniable benefits of being a freelancer in 2021?
Yes, there are pros and cons to the freelance lifestyle – finding clients, generating the right revenues and making sure that clients pay you on time can all be tough, at first. But wouldn’t you love to enjoy the kind of flexibility, freedom and control that a freelance lifestyle brings you?
If you’re tempted by the benefits of self-employment, my book, ‘Going Freelance: Building Work Around Your Life’, is your 101 guide to becoming a successful freelancer.
Each chapter gives you the simple, easy-to-follow tips you need, with clear advice on setting up your own freelance business.
The book explains how to:
- Understand the Benefits (And Challenges) Of Going Freelance
- Ensure You Have The Right Experience And Skills
- Make The Jump And Get Started
- Know Why You’re In Business
- Find Your First Customer
- Market Your Brand And Services
- Choose Where To Work
- Join The Freelance Community
- Build On Your Client Relationships
- Manage Your Workload
- Manage Your Numbers
- Get Paid On Time
- Pursue A Good Work/life Balance
- Get Started As A Freelancer
‘Going Freelance’ is available in Kindle and Print editions on Amazon.