One of the more entertaining parts of being a freelance web designer is hearing all the different assumptions people have about your job. And, having spent approximately half my life as one, I think I’ve heard them all.
Among the greatest hits: “If you get tired of working, you can go watch TV.”; “Wow, so I bet you could hit the golf course every day.”; “Life without a boss!”; “Working at home must be so exciting!” – I could go on, but you get the idea.
The common thread is that they all relate to a perceived freedom. And you can’t blame them, since freedom is one of the big selling-points of this career.
Yet, that’s not really the type of freedom I’ve experienced. It got me thinking about the realities and how they differ from the perceptions. Just what type of freedom comes with freelancing? And, what are the costs and limitations?
The Freedom of a Personalized Work Environment
Freelancing provides us with the opportunity to work where, when and how we want. That means, if you want to work nights on the beach, you can. Not necessarily realistic, but certainly possible.
In my view, this is the biggest benefit. I’ve set up a home office, work in a (fairly) private environment and do something I enjoy every day. This is not the same experience as, say, working in a traditional office with a roomful of colleagues.
This has allowed me to spend more time with my daughter. It’s helped me to reach a higher level of discipline than I thought I was capable of. And, I’ve had the chance to experiment with how and when I work. Just as important, I can listen to loud music without a word of complaint!
Still, there is a cost. It takes some sacrifice (and maybe a little luck) to do things your way. If you want work odd hours, for example, you’ll need clients who are willing to go along. That may mean severely limiting yourself at first, or caving in and working “normal” hours until the right opportunity comes along.
The Freedom to Choose the Right Projects
Every web designer has their own ideals when it comes to projects. There are certain price points, industries and subjects that appeal to us. The great thing is that we can decide these things for ourselves, then pursue the projects that match our ideals.
I can attest that being picky about who I work with has been a great stress reducer. Don’t get me wrong – there’s still stress. But it’s not from feeling stuck or working on projects I don’t like.
The only caveat is that it’s not always easy to determine just what types of clients and projects you want to work with. This is especially the case when you first start out as a freelancer.
So, perhaps this freedom is one earned through experience. The more projects you work on, the more you’ll learn about your own preferences. From there, you’ll have a better sense of what fits.
In addition, it also requires a certain financial comfort level in your business. It’s easier to say “no” to a client outside of your niche when you have enough work to keep food on the table.
The Freedom to Use Our Favorite Tools
Among the most compelling reasons to go freelance is that you aren’t chained to a specific tool or process. One of most frustrating aspects of previous jobs I had was being told what I could or couldn’t use. Not to mention being stuck on a computer from the (internet) stone age.
Running my own business has allowed me to choose the hardware and software that helps me get things done. No, I can’t afford everything I want. But I can work within whatever limitations I have to make the most out of each project.
Plus, I can use tools that I believe in when working with clients. Can you imagine having to sell a client on a CMS you don’t like or trust? Even worse, imagine forcing outdated solutions on them. This is an area where corporate mandates can hurt more than they help.
The cost here is in the responsibility that comes with making such decisions. If something turns out to be a disaster, you might not have an easy scapegoat. Oh, well. That’s one advantage of working for someone else!
It’s About Making Your Own Choices
In all, the overarching freedom of being a freelancer is the ability to decide for yourself. So, in a funny way, the assumptions others have about us aren’t completely wrong. The reality is just more nuanced.
Yes, we can choose to watch TV or abandon work for a tee time. But those choices have consequences. Do these things too often and you’re likely to be unemployed.
To be a successful freelance web designer, it takes the courage to make your own decisions and deal with what comes next. The freedom merely lies in being the one who gets to steer the ship.