There are some things that only freelancers will ever understand. While there are loads of great things about it, before you take the leap, there are a few things you should be aware of.
1. If you don’t work when you’re sick, you don’t get paid
You’re allowed to be sick (you’re only human), but the days of taking your leftover sick days just because you’d rather do something else are over.
2. Congratulations! You’re now a salesperson
I know you think you’re a writer, graphic designer, [insert what it is you do here], but you’ll spend more time on the phone wheeling and dealing than you ever thought.
3. Distractions are a big problem
Social media, your inbox, your kids, your favorite TV shows — they’ll all be calling your name while you’re working. Worse yet, your friends and family will probably have a tough time understanding the difference between “freelancer” and “has no job,” so you’ll be faced with people assuming your time is always free — and sometimes that means requests to run their personal errands.
4. Say goodbye to “business hours”
It’s not that you don’t have to be available during business hours and you do have some flexibility, but 5 p.m. isn’t automatically the end of every workday. Actually, it’s not the end of most workdays.
5. Don’t expect thank-yous when you save someone’s butt
Clients won’t hesitate to hit you up to meet unreasonable deadlines, and they’ll take all the credit when something works really well — even if it’s the opposite of what they were going to do before you talked to them.
6. Humility is key
No matter how good you are, your clients will tell you you’re wrong sometimes. People who think they know better than the person they hired are just a part of it. What’s more, sometimes they’re right. It’s your job to advocate for what’s best, but sometimes, it’s just not worth the battle.
7. You’ll learn what feast or famine really means
Some months it seems like you’re unstoppable. Other months it seems like you can’t pay someone to let you work for them. Be sure to save money for a rainy day.
8. It’s unreasonable how many times you feel like saying “Show me the money!”
Just because your client isn’t broke doesn’t mean you’ll get paid promptly (or at all). Just because they sound impressive doesn’t mean they have the dough. If you don’t learn to ask for what you’re owed and refuse work that’s a dead end, you’re going to need to pay careful attention to the tactics used by the people calling to collect on the money you now owe them.
9. The IRS is just a part of your life now
Remember back in the day when you only had to think about tax issues once a year? That’s over. You have to think about the tax implications of everything you do from this point forward. The time to research self-employment taxes is before you start, not come tax time.
10. People think you should work for free
It’s one thing for friends and family members to ask for a favor — we all do it. But seriously, you have no idea how many clients will ask the same thing. Sometimes you should say yes because it’s a loss leader. Other times you have to put you foot down because there’s no such thing as a free lunch (which you won’t be eating if you don’t learn where and when to draw the line).