I get it.
The idea of freelancing for your entire living is intimidating. Like one of my favorite mentors says, the best part of freelancing is you’re responsible for every part of your financial success. The worst part is you’re responsible for every part of your financial success.
I understand how that scary it is. But I respectfully submit that freelancing has a heap of benefits that outweigh that nervous feeling in the pit of your stomach. For example…
1. Time Independence
Of all the benefits of online writing and the freelance life, this is my favorite. You have to spend a certain amount of time writing, and a certain amount of time on admin. That amount of time is determined by how fast you write, and how much money you want to earn, and there’s nothing to be done about that.
But you choose when you spend those hours. Kid got a ball game, or your partner wants to have lunch? Want to watch a matinee movie? Want vacation on your terms and your timing? As long as you’re willing to do the work when you don’t have better offers, that’s just your life.
The Downside: It takes discipline to manage your time when nobody’s telling you how to spend it.
2. Location Independence
You not only get to choose when you spend your working hours, you get to choose where you spend them. Most freelance writers work from home, but you can head to the coffee shop, library, pub…anywhere, really, if you want a break or a change of scene.
This also works for trips and vacation. I took my family to Malaysia for 13 months, and half my clients didn’t notice I’d left. Digital nomads — people who travel continually while working freelance telecommuting jobs — are a growing trend, and writers are thick on the ground among them.
The Downside: You can fall into the trap of working on vacation as your norm, because you can always type a few words at the hotel or in the airport.
3. Say Goodbye to Commuting
This is a symptom of location independence, but it’s so important it rates its own category. As a freelance writer, you’ll never have to commute to and from work again. Well, you will commute…but it will be from your bedroom to your home office. You can do it in three minutes, and in your pajamas.
The average American spends 10 hours a week commuting. If you split that between 5 hours of work and 5 hours of play, you’d have an hour of quality time each week and (on average) $1,000 more income each month. And I haven’t even gotten into the money you don’t spend on fancy work clothes, gas, car maintenance, or eating lunch out.
The Downside: With your work station so close, it can sometimes be hard to draw a strong line between when you’re at work and when you’re at home.
4. Sleep When You Want
Another symptom of a different benefit, but worth its own space: your time independence means you can sleep when you want. Only about one-third of working adults naturally have a body rhythm that works with a nine-to-five work schedule. The rest of us just spend our working lives sleep-deprived.
As a freelancer, you can start work when you want. Which means you can go to sleep when it works for you and still get a glorious 7.5to 8.5 hours. You can even take a nap in the middle of the day if you want.
The Downside: Without that alarm clock in the morning, it can be harder to curb unhealthy habits like Netflix binging or closing the pub multiple times each week.
5. Job Security
This is the ninja benefit, since it flies in the face of what most people think is the biggest disadvantage of freelance work of any kind. But it’s real, and it’s important.
If you have a regular job, you get a regular paycheck. If you freelance, you get as much work as you can find and each month varies. This sounds like the regular job gives more security.
If your job ends, or you get laid off, or you get fired, you’ve suddenly lost 100% of your income. When one of a freelance clients winds down, that’s a loss of 10-20% of your income. And you get it back as soon as you sign a new client. That’s real job security in a way that relying on a boss to sign your checks doesn’t offer.
The Downside: This only works if you consistently seek and gain new clients. It’s not many freelancers’ favorite part of the gig, but it is a vital part.
6. More Interesting Work
No matter what job you take, you’ll spend some months or even years stuck with an assignment or role that bores you to tears. It’s part of working for a company that has needs beyond your own well-being and happiness.
As a freelancer, you get to control what jobs you take and leave. That means more gigs that line up with what you find fascinating, and repeat business only with the clients you love to work with.
The Downside: You’ll also take gigs that are pull-your-hair-out boring, or work with clients who make you want to choke them. All part of the deal.
7. You Get Sick Less
This benefit is at the nexus of time independence and location independence. Not sleeping when your body wants to does bad things to your immune system…things that make you more vulnerable to whatever bugs are running around. Going to an office puts you in contact with dozens of people, any number of whom are carrying some crud from home, from their kids’ school, from the subway….you get the picture.
Working freelance from home means better sleep and less contact with the “diseased masses.” That means less exposure and stronger resistance. Which means less time spent sick overall.
The Downside: Not interacting with as many people can make freelance writing a pretty lonely profession.
8. (Theoretically) Limitless Income
At a regular job, you (probably) get a small raise every year. But that’s it. Outside of a promotion or commission situation, your income is largely fixed. That’s comforting to some people, but it’s also why people get caught in a cycle of credit card debt.
As a freelancer, if you want extra money, you just work extra hours. Whether that translates to a higher consistent income, or just a temporary thing to afford a nicer vacation or addition to your house, that flexibility makes your life better in myriad ways.
The Downside: The same factors mean you can easily make less than you need. You have to aggressively pursue the sales side of freelance writing if you want to be successful.
It’s Up to You
I won’t lie. Freelancing also has disadvantages, and a regular job has advantages the freelance life lacks. And because life is often confusing, some traits of either fit in either the “pro” or the “con” column based on your personality, preferences, hopes, dreams, and stressors.
But if these advantages feel like a good match for you, I cannot overstate how much it’s changed my life for the better. I’d be thrilled to welcome you aboard Team Freelance. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if I can help you make the leap.
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