Every would-be freelancer dreams of freelancing as a golden age in which work will actually be fun, we’ll have new-found passion, and the things we do will really matter — at least to us. No more working for someone else. And no more office politics.
But is freelancing really that good? Is it a golden age? Everyone’s idea of work heaven is different, so I can’t answer that question for you. What I can do is point out the areas where freelancing has differed from what I expected. If your expectations are anything like mine, you’ll be forewarned.
Freelancing’s Own Boring Bits
Freelancing definitely has its own boring bits. For me they include the following.
1. Chasing up invoices
For me, this is the most boring of all bits. Chasing up invoices is frustrating and time consuming, and to my mind, should be unnecessary. I hate it.
One benefit of freelancing, of course, is that you can pick and choose what you do with your time. So I generally do not work for companies that don’t pay me on time. This keeps the amount of invoice follow-up I have to do to a bare minimum. And that means I can focus on the interesting bits of what I do.
2. Quiet times
I really loathe quiet times. In fact, that was one of the reasons I wanted to freelance: so I could do something other than sit around my desk when there wasn’t much to do. All the same, I find quiet times — which do happen — a bit disconcerting. Boring, even.
They do, however, give me a chance to catch up on all the small tasks I’ve been neglecting, and work on my own personal projects, so in this case, the boredom can be alleviated.
3. Tax and friends
When I worked for an employer, that organization looked after my taxation and my superannuation. Now I have to worry about all that myself, along with obtaining business registration and meeting other legal and regulatory requirements (did those words make you shudder?), and it can be super-boring.
Using an accountant and/or legal adviser might be the way to go for most freelancers, but if you’re just starting out, you probably won’t feel you have the spare cash to splash around on these kinds of professionals. This belief can wind up hurting your business in the long run if you make mistakes, though, so even if you think finding an accountant or lawyer sounds dull, it’s probably a lot less tedious than the problems you’ll face if you don’t find one.
Either way, tax, legalities, and their friends are a pretty boring bunch.
4. Client misperceptions
Many clients seem to think that “freelancer” means you work all hours, and “contractor” means you can start working in a full-time temp role immediately. Constantly battling with clients to convince them that you work during business hours (and — yes — a phone call at 8pm on a Sunday is unreasonable), or negotiating more than five minutes’ notice to start an on-site contract, can wear thin very quickly.
To reduce the tedium, I try to see the funny side of things while I remind clients of my hours for what feels like the billionth time. I also focus on giving them a really great product by the deadline that I negotiate, rather than stewing over the client’s “unreasonable” demands.
5. Cashflow worries
Cashflow worries tend to be more of an issue for the freelancer than the salaried worker. It’s not just about having your invoices paid; it’s about finding work and completing it in a manner that coincides with your next grocery bill.
Cashflow requires planning, which I don’t mind, but I’m no fan of the endless where-will-I-find-next-month’s-income questions. Since I began freelancing, I’ve learned to have a little faith, but also to be more courageous about approaching people for work. But in my case, once next month’s income is sorted, I’m thinking about the following month’s, or the one after. This is one unavoidable boring bit I’m learning to accept.
Is Freelancing Work Without the Boring Bits?
No. Freelancing has its very own boring bits. For me, most of them are easy to manage, but most of them are also unavoidable. A born cynic, I was sure freelancing wasn’t for me for a very long time, because I assumed the boring bits would outweigh the benefits.
They don’t. While freelancing may not be work without the boring bits, for me, it’s a great way to live my life, enjoy a sense of control over what I do, and gain access to the kinds of projects and people that no single company has ever offered me.
What do you think are freelancing’s most boring bits? And how do you manage them?