For me personally becoming a freelancer was one of the best ideas I’ve ever had. Being a freelancer beats all jobs I have had in the past and maybe more that 99% of all potential jobs I could realistically expect to have. And I certainly can’t complain of lack of lucrative offers, even now, when I am off the market for hired power.
For me the main reason to become a freelancer was the fact that I already had too much experience to be an ordinary staffer and some bitter experience as a manager of bunches of idiots, so becoming a manager again wasn’t exactly the thing I dreamed of. Starting my own company was also an option but basically I decided to play the lonely wolf and go on my own rather than deal with all the administrative chores around a company of my own and all the staffing pains that I have already had while working for somebody else.
While my reasons are hardly rare, there are also many more that drive people into freelancing. I will try to present a summary of the main reasons that motivate a person to become a freelancer. However, be warned that none of the reasons (i.e. more money, better work-personal life balance, etc.) are to be taken for granted. On the contrary, if you don’t know how to arrange your freelancing business or simply if you are out of luck, all the benefits of freelancing can turn into huge disadvantages.
1. No Boss
The most obvious reason to become a freelancer is the desire to be one’s own boss. However, being one’s own boss isn’t easier! In many cases it is even much harder, especially if you have no managerial and sales skills. Well, if you have had the pleasure to have mainly idiots for bosses, it is very hard to perform worse than them but if you have had the privilege to work with top-notch managers, as I did in one or two cases, you will always compare yourself to them and you might feel you will never reach their level.
Basically, if you have no managerial skills, you will learn the hard way that technical skills alone, even if they are superb, won’t take you far. In this case freelancing might be your worst disappointment. This was the case with some friends of mine who are technically better than me but who just lack any sales/managerial skills and for them freelancing was almost a suicidal idea.
2. No Coworkers and Subordinates
When your boss is an idiot, this is very nasty. But when your coworkers and subordinates are unreliable, this is worse than a malicious boss. When you are in a team, you depend on other people and if they fail you, you drop. It is especially bad when you have subordinates who are not worth a penny but due to various reasons you are forced to work with them.
In one of the cases when I was in a managerial position, the so called “team” was just a group of losers who were close to the bigger boss and who didn’t work at all. I was between a rock and a hard place – having a team that is totally useless and being responsible for other people’s failures. To add insult to injury, some of the team members were paid more than me simply because they had been longer with the company! But in fact this was good – it took me a very short time to decide that I don’t belong to this group of losers and to move on.
3. More Freedom
In theory, when you are a freelancer, you have more freedom. You decide which projects to take. You pick what you like.
In practice, this isn’t exactly so because very often, due to various reasons, you pick not what you like but what is available, which is quite different. Still, all equal, as a freelancer you have more freedom to make decisions and if you decide to make a compromise, you know it is your decision, not that you are again sacrificing yourself because of other people’s wrong decisions.
4. More Money
In my opinion, more money is a major reason why people become freelancers. Unfortunately, very often this is the biggest disappointment, too.
On one hand, if you are really good, for the same amount of work, you can make more money than what you will be getting at a company, unless of course you aren’t among the privileged few, who don’t work but get more money than the workhorses. As a workhorse under your own management, you will have more than under a poor management – this is for sure.
Additionally, if you freelance from home, your expenses might be lower – you won’t be paying for gas, for eating out, etc., which could easily be $500 a month or more. If you manage to negotiate good rates on your projects, it might turn out that you are making more in a day or two as a freelancer than you would make in a full-time job for a week.
However, when money is concerned, you need to consider your increased spendings, too. Taxes, equipment (hardware, software), office rent (if you have to rent an office) are all expenses that go out of your freelancer’s pocket and if you don’t budget well, you can end with a net income much lower than what a 9 to 5 job pays.
5. No Wasted Time to Commute
Time is money! Probably this is what you are thinking every day on the 2+ hour journey to and from work. When you freelance from home (or your office is a block away), you don’t waste time to commute. If commute takes 1 ½ in each direction, this is 3 hours a day lost on the road. If your hourly rate is $20, 3 hours a day lost to commute are $60 a day, or $300 a week!
6. A Better Work-Life Balance
For everybody in a demanding job work-personal life balance is a tough issue. In theory, when you are a freelancer and you decide when to work, it must be much easier to find this balance. The benefits of working from home are especially tangible for people with kids and above all for single parents because this allows them to spend more time at home and saves quite a lot on daycare.
However, it is not always easy to make your kids behave as if you were not at home and kids can easily turn into a huge distraction. A (male) acquaintance of mine got so pissed off by having his family around him at all times that he rented an office nearby, where as I joke he is hiding from his loved ones, so that he can work at least a little.
7. No Other Options
Finally, one not so romantic reason to become a freelancer is the lack of other options. About 2 years before I decided to go freelance full-time, I was unemployed for quite a lot of time. I did get lots of offers but they were so bad in terms of career prospects, money, technologies used, management, company culture, etc. that I was joking I could accept them only if I were under the influence or out of my mind.
While I was looking for permanent jobs, I found some freelance opportunities that I regarded as a temporary solution till I found something better. These opportunities weren’t something out of this world but they brought some money and saved me from the necessity to sell myself – i.e. to accept one of those bad offers.
When I finally found a job that wasn’t as bad as most of what was available, I quit freelancing but after this job too turned pretty nasty in about a month or so, I stayed there for 3 months only and again went freelance.
After that I had a couple of more other full-time jobs, each of which went nasty in a different way. This was what convinced me that when you are not your boss, even a job that looks decent can quickly go bad and you have either to leave, or put up with all sorts of idiotisms. I guess I have gathered enough experience and wisdom to decide that I am much better off as my own boss and that it makes no sense to put up with the consequences of other people’s mistakes.
As you see, there are many reasons behind the decision to become a freelancer. Not all these reasons are valid for everybody and it will be interesting to hear what your reasons to become a freelancer were and if you regret your decision.
All Images: Set of Funny Business Cartoons via Shutterstock