It’s five o’clock in the afternoon. The buzz that once filled the office floor slowly begins to dissipate, as colleagues begin to punch out and head home. You look up from your sombre cubicle in the middle of a crammed room and begin to pack up for the day as well. Another work day has come and gone. Another day, during which you followed the orders of those higher up on the corporate food chain. Another day, where you earned a pittance, making others get rich; making others look good. As you trudge along to your car, parked at the very end of the dimly lit lot, you begin to wonder, is this all I am meant to do with my life? Is this how the next forty years will look? Am I doomed to forever work tirelessly for someone else, to perpetually fight for increased responsibility and promotions, never truly knowing professional freedom or autonomy?
Salaried workers make up roughly 90% of people employed in developed countries throughout the world. Paid employees work for owners of companies of all sizes; from small businesses to large corporations. Typically, salaried employees sign a contract to work for the company. The contract outlines the employee’s responsibilities, hours, benefits (vacation and sick days, pension fund) and monthly or hourly wage. The employee must then answer to his or her superior; a manager, and fulfill professional requirements and assignments, according to the preferences of the boss.
In developing countries, an increasing number of workforce members are foregoing the “traditional” route of being a salaried employee, instead choosing to work independently. In fact, in some South Asian countries, as little as 25% of workers are salaried and employed by other businesses. The remaining 75% of workers have opted instead to start their own businesses, or work as farmers.
Some self-employed or independent workers choose to work as freelancers. They are their own bosses; selecting which clients or companies to work with, which jobs to take on, and which to refuse. Freelancers answer to themselves and are directly responsible for the quality of the contracted product presented to the client. If a client is dissatisfied with a product, the freelancer must assume accountability and rectify the situation. If, on the other hand, a client is pleased with the completed work, the freelancer is the recipient of all accolades, and a professional relationship can be nurtured and strengthened.
Becoming your own boss, setting your own work schedule, claiming the responsibility for all of your successes – to the average salaried worker, freelancing sounds like a dream come true. And to a certain degree it is. Yet, self-employment can also be lonely and chock full of risk and bureaucracy. Salaried workers contemplating taking the leap towards self-employment and freelancing should carefully weigh the move’s advantages and disadvantages prior to taking any formal steps.
Freelancers can be lone wolves
As freelancers are not employed by any single corporation, there is no requirement to show up to work at a particular office every day. No one monitors the freelancer’s comings and goings. There is no timecard to punch in and out at the start and end of each work day. There are no natural colleagues and there is no water cooler to gather around to converse.
Some jump at the opportunity to work from home. Morning arrives and the freelancer, still dressed in pyjamas, turns on his or her computer, a cup of coffee in hand. There is no need to dress for success and no time is wasted on morning coiffing rituals. The time perhaps once spent grooming and preparing for the commute to the office, is instead used to get a head-start on the day’s work list.
Working from home has its inherent benefits. Quiet can increase the freelancer’s productivity and concentration levels. The freelancer can pluck away at the task at hand without office distractions and other disruptions. At the same time, this benefit can simultaneously serve as a clear shortcoming. House-related chores, errands and items can potentially steal the freelancer from the project. A quiet home and an empty bed might reduce the freelancer’s motivation, enticing him or her to rest instead of making progress with work.
Additionally, some people crave the bustle and chatter of the workplace, growing increasingly lonely and downtrodden in its absence. For this reason, some freelancers choose to leave the comforts of home and work from co-working spaces. Co-working spaces are shared by the self-employed, entrepreneurs and start-ups, providing workers with the lively feeling of being in an office, while maintaining each individual’s professional independence. Office space is rented out, adding another monthly cost to the freelancer’s expenditures, in exchange for boosted morale and a sense of professional kinship.
Freelancers are fully accountable for their work
Freelancers are fully responsible for the quality and quantity of their projects, from start to finish. The freelancer monitors his or her own work, from the time the client is signed, to the moment the project has been deemed satisfactory by said client.
The freelancer must keep track of projects and deadlines, ensuring they are all met. This requires focus and self-discipline, but is ultimately extremely rewarding. A successfully completed project will positively reflect on the freelancer and his or her business and will likely lead to future endeavors with the same client, perhaps even referrals.
Stellar marketing is needed to launch and maintain your freelance career
Unlike in large corporations, where salaried workers are presented with tasks for completion, freelancers must effectively market themselves and their businesses or services in order to obtain client work contracts. Marketing can take the form of social media posts, online networking and various other methods geared towards promoting the business’ name and brand and convincing potential future clients of your superior services.
Marketing a freelance business is not a one-time endeavor. Freelancers must continuously promote their businesses and services if they wish to keep clients coming and ensure a steady livelihood. A well-promoted business has a better chance of being noticed by prospective clients. Stellar marketing additionally adds a sense of professionalism and an air of success to the business.
Overnight success is not guaranteed
Launching a freelance career is risky. There is no guarantee that the business will succeed and there is a chance that expenditures (taxes, accountant fees, marketing fees) may exceed revenues at first. With determination, persistence, a keen business acumen and (hopefully) a nest egg to launch their freelance career with, novice freelancers can hope to slowly begin to view their businesses blossom.
To the average salaried worker, becoming one’s own boss seems like the ultimate business aspiration. Freelancers set their own hours and select their own clients and projects. They are fully accountable to themselves and their clients, ever working to build their brand and succeed in the business world. Working as a freelancer takes much dedication and perseverance, yet can be exceedingly rewarding and liberating. Salaried workers seeking to take the leap towards self-employment should first educate themselves about the nature of freelance work, its benefits and shortcomings and financially prepare for their business’ launch.
Have you made the leap from employee to freelancer? Tell us about some of your biggest challenges and how you successfully overcame them…