Freelancing: Is the risk worth the reward?

I love being my own boss. I love controlling every aspect of my life, from managing my finances and choosing my clients to taking time off whenever I want.There’s no one to tell me that with the 365 days we’re graced with in a year I can only have 25 of those working days off. It doesn’t make sense to me.

The way we work as a society is broken. All evolutionary aspects aside let’s look at something simple like daylight, especially when it gets dark early. You see, we as a species need sunlight, the human body absorbs vitamins from it, it affects our mood, sets our body clocks and so much more, yet we’re actively avoiding it.

A typical Winter’s working day:

Wake up, it’s still dark > commute, while it’s dark > get to work, it’s getting lighter > hopefully spend an hour outside for lunch in the daylight > leave work and, what’s this… oh, it’s dark again. Boom. Day over, rinse and repeat.

But hey, what can you do about it?

Well actually, you can change it.

There’s a lot of hype around freelancing at the moment. Breaking the shackles of a permanent workplace to sit on a beach in some foreign land, laptop by your side, sipping on cocktails.

That’s the dream, right?

However, is the risk of leaving a financially secure job worth it, and is it actually possible?

For a lot of people being away from the office just wouldn’t work because your job may involve specialist or cumbersome equipment or your role requires your physical presence.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I sit at a single desk all day?
  • Do I use a lot of specialist equipment?
  • Is my work computer based?
  • Do I have a lot of in-person meetings?
  • Does my company keep all of its files on a local server?

Do I sit at a single desk all day?

Being desk-bound can be a key giveaway that you can probably work from anywhere in the world. Being at a desk means you’re getting stuff done on a table. If stationery and a computer is all you use – you’re golden.

Do I use a lot of specialist equipment?

If you need a lot of specialist equipment, e.g – high-powered microscopes, centrifuges, studio equipment – basically anything hard to carry, then your options are more limited. Stay employed or invest in your own equipment and start your own company.

Is my work computer-based?

Computers are so portable and so powerful today that if all your work is based in pixels then you’re already free. Well, trapped within the confines of your hard drive (hello cloud computing!) but essentially you can pick up that foldable chunk of circuit boards and crack on anywhere with an internet connection and electricity. That’s most of the world.

Do I have a lot of in-person meetings?

A lot of jobs involve real life meetings with real life people. 90% of meetings are bullshit and a waste of time. Saying that, however, it’s always best to meet people in person if you’re demonstrating a product, giving a pitch or presentation, etc. but with services like Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and whatnot – you can attend meetings from anywhere (just make sure your backdrop is appropriate… #NoToiletMeetings).

Does my company keep all of its files on a local server?

A lot of larger companies store their files on a local server. It’s a good idea for security and always having the most up-to-date files at any given time. Being away from the office means you won’t have access to these files. There are ways around this by having files sent to you, though one issue here comes with large files. Maybe you’re a designer needed to access a 4GB photoshop file, or a video editor with hundreds of gigabytes of footage to download. In these situations you either need to drop by in person or have some nut busting internet speeds.

Is it worth it for me?

Still reading? Good. Maybe you’ve thought about it and yeah, you can do this. If not, there’s still plenty of options – not for this article though.

From the outside looking in, this seems like a no-brainer, but actually ask yourself “Is this lifestyle worth it for me”. Everyone has their own battles and everyone has a different situation. Can you up and leave without any responsibility to family, friends, pets or plants? The beach life isn’t for everyone, and to be honest, I prefer the coffee shop scene in a city (#peoplewatching).

What I’m getting at is that only you can figure out if it’s worth it.

This is what makes it the hardest part for most people. Everyone can give you advice but only you can choose to take it. Having a steady job with financial security takes a lot of worry out of life, and if the worst should happen you usually get at least a month or so to figure out your next step. On the flip side, you could argue that there’s no ‘jobs-for-life’ anymore so why should you trust someone to feed you their work to do when you can go and get your own work?

Freelancing is a double-edged sword and what you put into it, you get out of it. You can make as much or as little as you want. Don’t feel like working for a couple of months? That’s great, but you won’t make a penny. Want to work solid for a couple of months? Even better – you could make more in those two months than four in your old job.

Let’s weigh up some pros and cons.

Cons Pros
No steady monthly paycheck Ability to earn more in a month than before
No one to guide you You’re your own boss
Pressure to acquire your own clients Build your perfect client list
Clients can stop giving you work You can refuse work for asshole clients
Harder to plan for the future Able to save more money, faster
It can be lonely Live and work where you want
Harder to meet new people The people you meet are usually likeminded
No routine 🙁 NO ROUTINE! 😀
You have to wear every hat in the business You have full control over your finances
You have to market yourself properly You can brand yourself however you want
People may give you a hard time as it’s not a ‘real job’ It’s way better than a ‘real job’
No pay on bank holidays or sick days

Anymore for anymore? Leave ‘em in the comments below.

I’m not here to tell you what to do with yourself, how to live your life or what’s in your best interests. Freelancing isn’t for everyone and unless you try it you’ll never know the control and freedom (good and bad!) you can have over your life.

For me, I’m enjoying the freelance lifestyle which may or may not end up being long-term, though by taking this risk I know exactly what I do like and what I don’t.

Looking for a way to get started?

Design, Photography, Copywriting and Coding are all great examples of things you can do on the move. If you want to go down the coding route because you want to build websites, apps and/or useful tools for specific problems I’d highly recommend Treehouse. It’s an online learning resource (the best one I’ve used) that teaches how to code, design principles and even how to start a business. Give it a go with my free trial.

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