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4 Brutal Truths About Freelance Work

Dec 30, 2020
(updated: Feb 14, 2023)
Max 5 min read

Transitioning from having a steady day job to becoming a full-time freelancer is certainly rewarding, but it can also be challenging. Although becoming a full-time freelancer has its perks — after all, you’re your own boss, you can work from home, and you’re spending time doing what you love — the path towards full-time freelance work is often murky and unclear, and there are additional downsides to freelancing full time. 

If you're considering making a long-term career change and becoming a freelancer, there are some brutal truths about freelance work that you should hear before taking the plunge. Read on to learn more about the top 4 brutal truths about freelance work.

There are no vacations or benefits

Being a freelancer means that you make your own schedule, but it also means that your schedule might look a little more packed than those of your non-freelancer friends. A recent study showed that 92% of freelancers continue working on their vacations and that many of them find it difficult for carving out time to relax and recharge their creative juices. 

A major factor contributing to this lack of downtime is the fact that because freelancers work alone, they rarely have anyone else who can help them pick up the slack. Additionally, many freelancers find it hard to step away from work when they are managing multiple clients' work at the same time.

Furthermore, freelancers' ability to take time off also extends to non-vacation days, including sick time, parental leave, and personal leave. This means that any time not spent working — whether it's because you're battling a cold or relaxing on a family vacation — could mean more financial strain down the road. 

Anyone looking to become a full-time freelancer should adjust their expectations and consider that this lack of downtime and benefits, if not managed properly, could be a significant source of stress in the future.

Time management is a major challenge

It's easy staying focused at a full-time office job. You're surrounded by co-workers and a boss who have certain expectations for you, and there are constant meetings to check in with others and discuss your progress. However, working by yourself at home is a different story. 

When you're a full-time freelancer, the only person managing your time is you, and there are plenty of distractions available (whether it's family members, social media, or even just the temptation to kick back and relax) that can keep you from achieving your goals on the timescale you want.

Time management is an important part of freelancing. Incorporating simple practices into your daily routine, such as creating to-do lists, eliminating distractions, and scheduling mindful breaks throughout the day, can improve your productivity and allow you to work as efficiently as possible. 

Full-time freelancers might also want to consider using a freelancer platform, such as Indy, which can allow them to manage their time more effectively by using time-tracking tools, rapidly sending out emails and forms to clients, and keeping track of tasks and to-do items. Although time management can be challenging, freelance platforms make it easy for managing your time so that you can do your best work as quickly as possible. Indy’s free Time Card calculator will let you keep track of the time you spend working, either on individual projects or for the whole day.

You're in charge of everything (yes, everything)

Many companies are divided into highly efficient departments that are each responsible for only one area of work. For example, at a big tech company, graphic designers don't need to help process HR paperwork, and accountants don't need to know how to code a website. In contrast, full-time freelancers must know how to run every aspect of their business

Whether you're a writer, artist, virtual assistant, or something else entirely, all freelancers must be capable of not only mastering their skill set but also knowing how to reach out to clients, market themselves and their small business, and network effectively to continue growing.

Additionally, as the leader of a one-person operation, you'll also need to understand the basic financial and legal aspects of your business, from how to manage your finances and file your taxes to how to protect your intellectual property and collect payments from non-paying clients. If that sounds more exciting than overwhelming to you, then chances are you'll make a great freelancer!

Finding new work (and money) can be hard

As a full-time freelancer, you're responsible for landing your own clients. Finding prospective clients can feel, at times, like searching for a needle in a haystack: it's a big world out there, and it's not always easy to find clients for whom your skill set would be a great match. 

However, there are a ton of great steps to try if you're serious about landing your first clients as a freelancer, including networking, scouring online job boards, and even cold-emailing potential clients to offer your services to them. However, work is never guaranteed as a freelancer, which means that you'll have to be self-motivated and persistent enough to keep trying in the face of rejection.

Furthermore, as if landing new clients wasn't hard enough, your livelihood and small business's cash flow are directly tied to your clients. If you're having trouble finding new clients, it could place financial strain on you and your ability to continue doing freelance work. Being able to manage your finances, along with your time, is thus an important aspect of freelance work.

Key takeaway

While there are many pros of freelancing work, including increased flexibility, the ability to work from home, and complete creative control, there are also some major drawbacks. Freelance work does not offer vacation time or benefits, requires you to be great at managing your time, money and business, and promises an inconsistent income that is directly tied to your ability to find clients. 

Although freelance work can be challenging, as long as you have the proper tools — such as a practical, realistic mindset and a helpful freelancer platform — making the transition to full-time freelance work can be just as rewarding as it is difficult.

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