Freelancers are always out of work. Even when they're in work, they're out of work. If you are not working, you have no money. And if you are working, you have no time to find more work. When the job ends, you have time, but no work. Whichever way you approach it, you always have no money.
Occasionally, you get the big job. Someone pays you a ridiculous amount of money, which proves once and for all that your plan to be a freelancer was a piece of genius. So you call up the guy who's been paying you peanuts for months, and tell him goodbye; and then you tell those companies you've been doing low-paid jobs for that you can no longer work at such ridiculously low rates.
But then no more big projects come. And the small project people all hate you. Not only this but, you have no money. You have no work, no money, and no friends, because your friends are all at home with their partners deciding on which wallpaper to buy, while you've been single for five years because every time you meet someone you might be interested in, you offend them by asking if they need to hire a freelancer.
The main problem with being freelance is that everything you do is an attempt to get more work. You only rest because a self-help book told you that rest is an important part of success. You only go to parties because you think letting your hair down will help your productivity come Monday morning.
Not that you start work on Monday morning. You start work on Thursday morning, at 3.26am, because you've come up with a masterplan for your business. You email everyone in your contact list offering a special rate, and then you write a tweet in which every word comes with a hashtag. #Freelance #Genius #Available #For #Work #Please #ImDesperate #HelpMe. You wait for the offers to come in, but only one person wants you and they want you for free, but can only pay 50% up front. You agree to work for free, with the rest of nothing coming after six months.
If you're thinking of quitting the day job and becoming a freelancer, you need to know what freelancing entails. Yes, you get a certain 'freedom', which means you don't have to be at the desk by 9am, but it also means you wouldn't be able to afford a desk even if you wanted one.
And you may actually go insane.
You agree to do a job for 20% of your normal fee. Why? Because for two months you've got 0% of any fee and now you'll do anything, regardless of whether it's related to your field of expertise or not. It's 20% of your normal pay, but the job takes 140% as long. You work a sixteen hour day - doing whatever it is you do; writing, baking-cakes, teaching netball, dog whispering, etc. And then, after it's all finished, to stop yourself from losing your mind, you meet your friends for a late dinner.
"Have you been at work today?" asks your friend Norman, in a tone that implies freelancing means that you are nearly always sitting at home on Facebook. The truth is, you have been working all day every day and even when you're not working, that's only because you're looking for work - and even when you watch a movie, you're only doing it in the hope that the two hours of down-time will inspire your subconscious to come up with a masterful plan for generating income.
Self-employment is an act of faith. You are choosing a career in which there may not be any work tomorrow, or the day after that. And even when something does come your way, there's no guarantee they'll actually pay you. Freelance-etiquette is that you'll probably be paid within 30 days, but if not, hopefully within four years. It's impossible to save money, because you're always in need of more work. And you can't take a trip to the seaside, because then you're not working either - and you can't get sick or have an operation, because then no-one will write your articles, bake your cakes or cure your dogs.
So remind me why we put ourselves through this craziness?
Oh yeah, because the possibilities are endless. Because the freelancers I know, the ones who really work hard and have the talent to back it up - they get to travel to places that most only dream about, and they get to meet new people virtually every day. And occasionally, it happens. The big job. A heap of money lands in your account and then you are safe. Well, at least for a week or two.
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