The Myth of Being a Freelancer

Everyone dreams about the freelancer lifestyle: the time and freedom it affords you, the ability to work at your own pace, the freedom to choose the tasks you like and dispose of the ones you don’t fancy; it all sounds very romantic. In fact, the catchphrase “be your own boss” has become the anthem for a lot of people across the world, as many dream of abandoning the traditional workplace to freelance.

Recent studies of labour market trends across the globe show that, while there is a generally positive trend towards the gig economy, not everyone is suited for it; and many in fact fail spectacularly at it. Why do some fail and others succeed? More importantly, are you ever truly your own boss?

Be Your Own Boss

Successful freelancers, like all self-employed people, know that the idea of being your own boss is really just a myth. As one freelancer puts it, “you think you are your own boss, but really you’ve only switched from having an actual boss giving you orders to having customers and clients give you orders.”  In the US they say, the customer is always right. In Japan they say, the Customer/Client is a God.

Anyway, what does this mean for you as a wannabe freelancer?

Firstly, you have to treat your clients (and potential clients) with courtesy and respect. Coming off as rude or having a bad attitude will not get you very far in the world of freelancing, despite your competence or level of skill. Clients don’t just want people who can do the work, but also people who they can work with.

Secondly, just like in a traditional office, you have to meet deadlines – this is crucial and is a major reason why many freelancers don’t succeed. Missing deadlines without a cogent reason implies that you are sloppy and unreliable. This tends to have a domino effect as dissatisfied clients will rate you lower and badmouth you. You don’t want that.

Also, you need to work according to client specifications, which sounds like an obvious point, but you would be surprised how often newbies misunderstand client needs and go ahead to do something else. Don’t let that be you.

All in all, it’s really no different from working in a traditional office, except perhaps having your cat as your office mate instead of an annoying colleague who never shuts up about his last ski trip in the Alps. And if that doesn’t sell you on the idea, nothing else will.


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August 13, 2018