One thing I’ve learned talking to freelancers in different fields, is that everybody’s perspective on this freelancing deal is a little different.
Freelancing overall is more varied and more diverse than even employment, and that’s how it should be — every freelancer is cobbling together a world of work, benefits, and downtime that fits their lives and needs, so it only makes sense that everyone’s freelancing career would be as unique as they are.
When I’m talking to new freelancers though, I’ve come to realize that, looking in from the outside, very little of all that is visible. Those of us who freelance (myself included) aren’t sharing the details of our lives and work all that often, and that leaves people new to this lifestyle out on their own with little idea of what to expect or what to even aim for. (Side note: I’d LOVE to see more Black freelancers blog about their lives…I think there’s a lot of opportunity for building an online presence, or even business there.)
That’s why I want to share a few misconceptions about freelancing I’ve run into lately…
It’s Like Interning.
OK…so freelancing isn’t just something you do before you get a “real” job. (Another side note: any job that makes money is “real”). It’s simply a different way of engaging with the exact same companies and organizations that employ people. It’s also something you can do early, late, or even during a traditional career.
Personally, I worked over 10 years in a corporate job and transitioned into freelancing after a layoff. Many people do the same and find they make more money freelancing even as they continue to develop the skills they picked up in their traditional career.
Don’t make the mistake of shortchanging freelancing as being less sophisticated or having less earning potential than other work options. You’ll only be shorting yourself.
It’s all About Writing For Known Publications.
I gotta throw this one out there for all my writers — Bylines are just the tip of the iceberg.
From brand writing, to sales, letters and ghostwriting, freelance writing is a deep and broad field that can extremely profitable for anyone who’s willing to develop their writing skills a little.
Want to learn more about those options? Check out this post.
It is (or Isn’t) Entrepreneurship.
People have a lot of different definitions of what entrepreneurship is.
Freelancing also varies a lot. This means, that depending on who you’re talking to, and whose freelance career you’re talking about, it might or might not qualify as entrepreneurship.
My take…the question, overall, is pretty pointless. Entrepreneurship exists on a spectrum and there are many elements of freelancing that overlap with entrepreneurship, including branding, marketing, customer service, managing your own healthcare and finances, even legal issues.
All honest work is worth respect, and if you’re taking more control of your income, that’s a good thing. Get past titles and trends and shape the freelance life that works for you.
That said, I do believe that if entrepreneurship (especially online entrepreneurship) is a goal of yours, that you should start with freelancing. Earning is simpler (because of the ties to traditional employment I mentioned earlier) and you can learn a lot of those difficult entrepreneurial lessons while earning.
All Freelancers Are Broke.
I’ve heard people say that freelancers should expect low pay because that’s the nature of the work…it is freelancing after all.
That’s not what it means. At all.
Like I mentioned earlier, some people make more money freelancing than employed. I currently make just over my previous salary while doing half the work I did while employed.
A lot of the income question around freelancing lies around three specific choices you make:
- What niche you freelance in
- What skillset you practice
- Whether you prioritize continually pushing your rates
While it does take some time and work to figure out how to balance those three out comfortably for yourself, all of those elements are largely within a freelancer’s control, so if higher income is what you want, it can definitely happen.
It is What it Is.
I understand this one deeply, because we’re conditioned young to take a relatively passive approach to our paid work. Even the most career-driven person is likely driving on a relatively narrow track shaped by someone else.
While freelancing frequently aligns with employment, one place it diverges is your options. You can turn down bad clients and change niches as you see fit. If you want to work with bigger companies to make more money for a few years, you can 100% do that.
Your freelance career is never stuck, and never stagnant. At worst, it’s simply at a place where it’s time to make new choices. Remember that.
Most important though, remind yourself every day that you’re developing a freelance career for yourself. You owe it to yourself to back away from idolizing your favorite writer or Internet freelancer and start pouring your energy into shaping a freelance career based on your own needs.