This week’s guest post comes to you from professional writer and project manager Sarah Daniels. Sarah worked as an employee in corporate environments and owned a creative agency before setting out on her own as a freelancer and on-demand worker. Today, she sets the record straight about what it really means to be “free.”
When it comes to being an employee, the times are changing rapidly. Gone are the days of job security, ladder climbing, and longevity. In 2016, the work landscape is rife with Lyft drivers, Task Rabbits, and Etsy makers. In fact, many of my close friends have transitioned from the cubicle to the co-working space. And no one seems to be looking back.
In the course of this shift, however, some things have hung on. Specifically: the stereotypes about on-demand workers. It seems that some of the old notions about working from home from the 80s and 90s have lingered…even though they’re totally outdated. The fact of the matter is that freelancers–and the work that they do–has changed quite a bit.
So, I thought I’d take a moment to address the myths I’ve heard as a freelancer myself, and get to the truth of the matter. In the freelance economy of the future, it’s important that we understand the real deal for those providing the goods and services we’ve come to expect.
- Myth: I have lots of “free time.”
- Reality: I have to work just as hard as (if not harder than) any employee. Sure, I get to go to the doctor and have a fro yo at 2:00 p.m. What people don’t see, though, are all of the late nights and weekends I put in…in addition to all of the extra tasks of a small business owner. Plus, there’s an ebb and flow to the work; I usually can’t afford to pass up a solid gig (even when I’m busy) since I never know exactly when the next gig is coming.
- Myth: I get to work from home.
- Reality: When your home is also your office, there really is no such thing as “home.” I worry about the dogs barking when I’m on conference calls and, when I need a conference room, I have to rent a space. Also, when you’re not Skyping, things can get kind of lonely. Some freelancers I know take community college classes or pick up part-time jobs just to get out of the house.
- Myth: I didn’t choose to be a freelancer; I was forced into it.
- Reality: Personally, taking the on-demand path was a very clear-cut and conscious decision for me. Some others, though, end up freelancing after a layoff or major life change. To me, it matters more what you do when you get there than how you got there in the first place.
- Myth: I can work from anywhere.
- Reality: Well, I can work from anywhere quiet that has reliable, secure, high-speed internet access. And that combination is harder to come by than you might think.
- Myth: I drink booze while I’m working.
- Reality: Unfortunately, I have to be stone cold sober to juggle everything on my plate. Long gone are the days of the three-martini luncheon.
- Myth: I sleep in late and work all night.
- Reality: If I respond to an email at 2:00 a.m., my clients will think they can reach me then. Thus, I have to set clear professional boundaries and follow a routine in order to have people respect my time.
- Myth: I never really get a true “day off.”
- Reality: I stick to my planner and put every meeting and to-do on my calendar. When I need a day off–for any reason–I simply schedule it in and, then, stick to my schedule. Essentially, I’m my own secretary.
- Myth: I’m an introvert.
- Reality: I’m actually an extrovert that interacts with people constantly, not only to get my job done, but also to attract new clients.
- Myth: I’m a loner, who’s not a “team player.”
- Reality: I’m a professional, who really appreciates being a part of things. I value all of my relationships, many of which have led to repeat business, referrals, and collaborative projects.
- Myth: I don’t have any stress.
- Reality: If you care about what you produce, you will always have a certain amount of stress. I always want the client to be happy and, when they’re not, neither am I. As for ongoing work, I do a lot of business development and networking to keep things flowing. So, I don’t have to spend time much time worrying about where my next job is coming from.
- Myth: I don’t have a boss.
- Reality: I have dozens of bosses, from clients to stakeholders to licensing officials to the IRS. Of course, the toughest boss of all is me.
- Myth: I can fire a client if I don’t like him.
- Reality: I have to be very careful about burning bridges; the freelance sphere is small and vocal.
- Myth: I only have to do what I specialize in.
- Reality: I am a generalist, who must also excel in time tracking, bookkeeping, invoicing, business development, customer service, marketing, project management, and more…every single day.
- Myth: I work in my pajamas.
- Reality: There’s a phenomena called “enclothed cognition” that causes our psychology to change based on what we’re wearing. Personally, I have to look professional in order to feel professional. Of course, I also do a lot of FaceTime and Skype. But I’ll admit that I’m often wearing slippers.
- Myth: I work on a project basis, so I don’t use contracts.
- Reality: Contracts are essential in any kind of business. I use work for hire contracts and copyright agreements. Not only do they provide clear expectations for both sides, they also help protect me in the event that I don’t get paid.
- Myth: I’m just a twenty-something without a real plan for retirement.
- Reality: I’m 38-years old and have an IRA and a ROTH I put funds into regularly. I have to keep my eye on the retirement “prize” more than anyone because there’s no employer contributing on my behalf.
- Myth: As a freelancer, I’m not as “stable” as a corporation and, as a result, may not be around for long.
- Reality: I put in a sincere commitment to the freelance lifestyle, as well as lots of time and money (to purchase my tools of the trade)…and I’m not going anywhere. So, go ahead and hire me already.
Now, it’s your turn! What myths have you heard about freelancers…and how do you respond? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
A bona fide digital native, Sarah Daniels has a certificate in professional publishing from Stanford University and a master’s degree in professional writing from the University of Southern California and has enjoyed a varied career in marketing, advertising, branding, project management, and content development.