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A myth is a story that gets passed around. Like Chinese whispers, they develop over time, and take on a life of their own. They start with a kernel of truth, but that truth gets hard to identify after a while. The truth gets lost in the drama of the story.
There are a ton of myths about freelancing. They develop because of over-cautious fear on the one hand, and unrealistic expectations on the other. Managers can fear losing control of a job by giving it to a freelancer. Potential freelancers can imagine the worst, or ignore the risks. And myths arise.
Here are the Top 10 Myths about Freelancers.
10. Freelancers spend the day on non-work related activities. I don’t think they do any work.
“I’m worried about giving this job to Pete. He’s always down at the golf course and visiting coffee shops. I’m worried that if I give him the job it will never get done.”
Freelancers value flexibility, and use it to follow their interests, care for their families, or just avoid the rat race. But they also take their work seriously. They value the good name they receive for a job well done. What you don’t see is the long hours and late nights of dedicated work they give to each project.
Freelancers need to set clear boundaries in their lives. They balance their flexibility with effort and a wise use of time. They know the time of day they are most productive, and make good use of it. They understand the importance of deadlines, and adjust their workload to meet them.
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9. Freelancers don’t have the resources of large companies. I’m afraid I won’t get quality work.
“This guy works out of his home. I know the company I normally use have offices full of equipment, and whole teams of trained staff. How can he compete?”
Freelancers are very good at their work. They have enough confidence in their ability to step out on their own. They have invested in the tools of their trade, and use them as experts. They are serious about their future, and constantly upgrade their skills.
Freelancers need to learn to build strong support networks for themselves. They can join online forums and communities, ask questions on Twitter, and improve their skills by frequenting tutorial sites like Aetuts+, Audiotuts+, Nettuts+, Psdtuts+, and Vectortuts+.
8. Freelancers don’t have the leverage of a large company. It is easy to drive down their fees.
“Freelancers are on their own and need the work. I can get a few freelancers competing for the same job and get quality work for peanuts.”
Freelancers don’t have the overhead of large companies, and can offer very competitive rates. And for the right job, they may be willing to negotiate on their rates. But if you want to build a positive, ongoing relationship with a freelancer, you need to pay them what they are worth. Freelancers learn to recognize bad clients, and may be less open to doing work for you in the future.
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7. Freelancers are unsupervised. I’m afraid they won’t finish the work on time.
“I know how to manage my own staff. Sometimes I really need to push them to get a job done. Who’s pushing the freelancers to meet the deadline?”
Freelancers have a great deal of professional pride. Unlike your employees, a freelancer’s own business and reputation are at stake. They also have the flexibility and focus to work long hours, often at times of the day when everyone else is sleeping.
Freelancers need to develop good time management skills, and learn to evaluate their work and workflow. They are often acutely aware of the times of day they work best, and when their creativity is at its peak. They often work well under pressure, and can find deadlines very motivating.
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6. Freelancers are financially insecure. I’m afraid this guy won’t be around when I need him in the future.
“Even a lot of large companies are in financial trouble right now. How can I be sure that this freelancer will be around in a few years when I need him? He could go broke at any moment!”
In today’s economic environment, we’re all very aware of our financial security. Working for a large company might look like a safer option, but that’s the opposite of the truth. Many companies are not as well-off as they look. Other companies are staying afloat by laying off their employees. In terms of income, it’s dangerous to put all of your eggs in one basket.
Freelancers’ financial security comes by having multiple income streams from multiple clients. If one company were to go out of business – or at least stop giving them their business – a wise freelancer will have a dozen other regular clients who continue paying them.
5. I could never be a freelancer. It takes too much initial investment.
“I hardly make enough money in my job. How can I afford to set up a new business? And how long will it take before I start making money as a freelancer? It all sounds too hard!”
Becoming a freelancer does take a great deal of commitment, and an initial investment of time, money and effort is required. You need computers, software, and furniture, and may need a new vehicle and new clothes.
But it doesn’t have to cost as much as you think. You don’t want to skimp on the tools of the trade. But there may be some purchases you can spend less on, at least initially. Other purchases can be put off till later. See them as rewards for work well done, and use them as incentives.
4. Freelancing is too risky. It’s all or nothing.
“I’ve never been a risk taker. It’s too scary to throw in my job and start freelancing. What if it doesn’t work out? What if I don’t like it? And they really need me where I’m working right now.”
Quitting your job and launching into the unknown is a daunting thing. But it can focus your energy, fuel your commitment, and set your determination. It’s do or die!
But it’s not the only way. It may be possible for you to keep working in your current job, and do some freelancing on the side. If things work out, you can cut down the hours you work at your job (if they are flexible), and eventually switch to freelancing full time. Or if things become tight down the track, you may be able to do some salaried work on the side.
3. I’m not a salesman. If I started freelancing I’d never be able to get clients.
“I’m a graphic artist, not a salesman. I’m great at my job, but I’m shy. I’ve always hated job interviews. How would I ever get a client?”
Plying your trade for a big company can feel safe – you just have to focus on doing your job. Once you start freelancing, you become your own marketing department as well. Marketing can include cold calling, designing brochures, networking, and creating a website. When you don’t have a paying job to do, spend your time selling your services. And when you do have lots of paying jobs, you still need to make time to market yourself.
This marketing role can seem awkward and unwanted, but it’s important. Your best marketing tool will be the quality of your work, and the word-of-mouth business that happy clients will bring you. But you have to have your name out there first.
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2. Freelancers spend all day on their own. They don’t have a social life.
“I love coming to work. I chat with the staff and clients all day, go to lunch with my friends, and Sue’s always making me coffee. If I become a freelancer I think I’d end up talking to the pot plants!”
If you’re not careful, you can go too many days working at home alone in your dressing gown. Many freelancers miss the interaction of working in an office, and break up the day by visiting a coffee shop or some other place out of the house.
Some freelancers share office space with other freelancers away from home. Web Worker Daily call this “coworking”, and describe it this way: “You get to work in a creative environment with other professionals, freed from unhappy workplaces, with the option to be as flexible as you choose.”
- How to Keep the Best of the Office Life as a Freelancer
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1. Freelancers are always under pressure. They never have a day off.
“I’m worried about the pressure of freelancing. I’ll have to finish every job myself, no matter how busy I am. And I can’t afford to get sick. I’d have to keep working and never take a day off.”
Having too much work is better than not having enough, but over time it can put you under pressure. But you don’t have to do it all alone. Consider outsourcing some of your work, or getting someone in to help. There may be quite a few peripheral jobs – invoicing, cleaning, making phone calls, paying bills – that a friend or family member can help with.
Make sure you keep your sanity. Give yourself a day off every week. And organize some income protection. If you become too sick to work, you need to be able to pay the bills.