People tend to assume a lot of things about freelance web designers. I’ve spent over half of my life being one. And I think I’ve heard them all.
Among the greatest hits:
- “If you get tired of working, you can go watch TV.”
- “Wow, I bet you could hit the golf course every day.”
- “Life without a boss!”
- “You can sleep as much as you want.”
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 people for assuming. Freedom is one of the big selling points of this career path.
But that’s not 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 freedoms come 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. It’s not necessarily realistic. But certainly possible.
In my view, this is the biggest benefit. I have a home office, work in a (fairly) private environment, and do something I enjoy every day. This is not the same experience as a traditional office with a room full of colleagues.
This means I can spend more time with my daughter. I’ve also become more disciplined about getting things done. And I’ve had the chance to experiment with how and when I work. Just as important, I can listen to loud music without complaint!
Still, there is a cost. It takes sacrifice (and maybe a little luck) to do things your way. If you want to work odd hours, for example, you’ll need clients who are willing to go along. That may mean severely limiting yourself at first. Or working “normal” hours until the right opportunity comes along.
The Freedom to Choose the Right Projects
Every web designer has their ideal project. There are price points, industries, and subjects that appeal to us. We can decide these things for ourselves. Then pursue the projects that match our ideals.
Being picky about who I work with has been a 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.
There is a caveat, though. It’s not always easy to determine what types of clients and projects you want to work with. This is especially difficult when starting 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 preferences. You’ll gain a better sense of what fits and what doesn’t.
It also requires being comfortable with your financial situation. It’s easier to say “no” to a client outside of your niche when you have adequate income.
The Freedom to Use Our Favorite Tools
Freelance web designers don’t have to use a specific tool or workflow. One of the most frustrating aspects of previous jobs was being told what I could or couldn’t use. Not to mention being stuck with a computer from the (internet) Stone Age.
I get to choose the hardware and software that suits my needs. No, I can’t afford everything I want. But I can work with what I have to make the most out of each project.
Plus, I can use tools that I believe in. Can you imagine having to sell a client on a content management system (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.
These decisions do come with serious responsibility, though. You’re on the hook if something turns out to be a disaster. There’s no one else to blame.
Oh, well. That’s one advantage of working for someone else!
It’s About Making Your Own Choices
The overarching freedom of being a freelancer is the ability to decide for yourself. The assumptions others have about us aren’t completely wrong. But the reality is 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.
Success in this field isn’t easy. It takes the courage to make decisions and deal with what comes next. The freedom lies in being the one who gets to steer the ship.