Updated: Mar 3, 2020
Call me a pessimist, but I bet not everyone would tell you this:
Fuck the freelance lifestyle.
Don't fall for that shit easily.
Freelancing can be amazing. It could be the best life one may want.
But you see, you don't always get what you want from something. And that's when freelancing turns into a nightmare from a beautiful dream where you were sitting by a beach, sipping a cocktail, and working on your latest gig.
Jokes apart, there are several reasons why I chose to write this article, and no, a failing freelance career is not one of them. ;)
You must have come across a bunch of freelance writers (including me) on LinkedIn who always like to talk about the "four phenomenal reasons" why the freelance life is amazing, the "five flawless tips" to charge more from your clients and the "six sexy places" to find high-paying gigs.
Did you ever wonder about the "seven shitty things" about freelancing that might make your life a living hell?
If no, sit tight and ready your parachute because your dream flight might just come crashing down. (But I promise I'll also share tips in my next article to help you avoid the crash.)
We oftentimes neglect the cons of freelancing. And it's none of our faults. Just basic human instinct. We subconsciously choose to talk and read about things that make us and others happier. That way, it always sounds like a win-win unless reality hits hard and proves that it was a catastrophe.
So, I believe that it's as important to know the Cons of Freelancing as it is to know its pros.
And to help you with that, I asked some of my fellow freelancers on LinkedIn to give you a sneak peek into the problems they face(ed) in their career.
A Beautiful Plate Without Food Can't Fill Your Stomach
That's what freelancing has been for many and for me too, at times.
Evan Ezquer shared that getting enough clients to work with all the time is what he found the most difficult while starting out as a freelance writer. And I believe all freelancers would agree to this.
The initial days or months are the most inconsistent for every freelancer out there. Some weeks, you'd write and earn more than what you aimed for. On others, you won't even be able to hit it halfway through.
But I'm sure your rent and other bills are consistent. So, think twice before heading on to this road.
You Get Peanuts When You Ask for a Three Course Meal
When starting out, you don't have much of a say into what you want to charge for your service. You might, but for that, you need to be a stellar writer and an elite marketer already, which rarely is the case.
And when you work on low paying gigs, you take up all projects that come to you. You try to churn out as much work per day as possible. You so strongly focus on earning enough to pay your bills and save some extra bucks that you burn yourself in the process.
This can only stop when you gain some experience, have some samples to show, and land higher-paying clients.
As Laasya puts it, "getting enough clients is one thing and getting clients who pay fair is another thing."
You Wear a Pyjama But You Need to Be a Superman
Suppose it is the first day of your fulltime job as a writer.
You enter the office, pull your chair, and switch on your computer. The very next moment your manager tells you that you need to take care of everything from finding clients to filing taxes. All hell breaks loose on you. You panic. You don't know what to do next. You curse your boss.
All that also happens when you choose to be a freelancer, except you don't get to curse your boss.
YOU ARE THE BOSS.
Welcome to the reality of freelance life. I told you, it won't be sweet.
Harshita says it best: "You're a one-person team taking charge of everything - payments, taxes, business development, client relationship, marketing, promotions and so on."
Adding to it, Gauri points out that "you are expected to be a multitasker and at the same time, manage the productivity of what you actually offer as a service."
If that sounds easy for you, here's more. This is how Vagisha describes her day's schedule: "Personally for me, the day revolves around preparing invoices, sending proposals, writing, attending calls, doing revisions, meeting deadlines and a lot more. Sometimes the process becomes overwhelming."
Still here? Okay, let's move on.
Self-Respect is the Only Respect You Earn
It's amazing to stay home and work from your couch. But sitting on your couch every day can be a pain when nobody, not even your clients, understands the effort you put in.
Your friends, neighbours, and family would ask you silly questions about what you do and how you do and whether or not you actually do anything. And "your family keeps distracting you just because they think you are working from home so you are accessible at all times," stresses Ayesha while sharing her experience.
That, however, is a small part of the real problem. The real problem is that down the line, you'll meet some clients who would barely have any respect for your work. They'll treat you as if they own you. You'll be to them as taxes are to everyone; unwanted but you can't not pay them.
Binati has had her fair share of such experiences, which she expresses saying "Clients feel they own us. With freelancers, they're rude, dismissive, and demanding."
Home Sweet Home Sweet Office Sweet, What?
Fulltimers are lucky that they get to leave behind their professional life as soon as they step outside their office gates. For freelancers, things are not as finely defined.
You are home and yet at the office at all times.
It's confusing. It gets real messy real quick.
It is easy for you to lose control of the time you need to spend working and the time you need to give to your family and friends.
Even the most experienced freelancers are faced with this situation quite often. "Drawing a fine line between work and life is troublesome," says Abhijeet.
And when you fail to draw that line, you disturb both, your personal and professional life.
On the other hand, you get to enjoy your "me time" all the time. But that's the problem.
Nobody wants to be alone all the time.
We all sometimes crave for teammates who understand our work and our problems related to it. We all need people with whom we can bitch about our clients and past experiences.
As a freelancer, you may get none of it.
That's where alone becomes lonely. And mind you, they are two different things.
In the words of Rahul, "you can be alone, TOO ALONE."
Sounds like something straight out of a horror movie, doesn't it?
Now You Have it, By March You Won't
The most dope comment on my post asking people to list the problems they face as a freelancer had just one word:
"TAXES," wrote Mary.
Go back, read that again. Okay, one more time. Spell it with me. T.A.X.E.S.
If it doesn't make you anxious, I don't know what will.
As a fulltime employee of a company, what you receive in your bank account at the end of every month is not taxable. Companies do the math for you and tax your income before transferring it to your account. So sweet of them!
The moment you step into your freelancer shoes, you are responsible for all of that. You are the company. You are the employee. And you must pay your taxes on your own.
So, say you have been earning ₹100,000 every month. You don't get to keep all of it. The amount you receive for every project is not taxed. So, you need to reserve the tax amount from your monthly income to pay your taxes at the end of the financial year.
If you don't, you might be under the illusion that you have saved up a certain amount while by March 31st, you would be forced to pay almost 20% to 30% of your "savings" as tax.
Speaking of finance, there's another setback that freelancers face. It is "the lack of the safety net of PF, corporate family medical and dental insurance, and paid paternity/maternity leave," mentioned Rohit.
Now, Happy Saving.
You Take the Other Road and That Fucks You Up
Have you ever been to a job interview where the interviewer asked you something like "What's your expected salary?"
If yes, you know how difficult a question that is.
You fear fucking things up by either underpricing or overpricing yourself. Either way, you lose unless you target for something close to what the company is ready to pay.
When you get into freelancing, that's exactly what you need to do every single time a prospect drops a message or email to you (at least I did for the first year or so). And I have so many regrets for both underpricing and overpricing my work.
It stays there for a long long time.
So, be prepared to "actually price yourself, not because the world thinks it is the right price, but because it is something that you deserve," wrote Ankita.
We freelancers often make our rates according to our clients, but we should be quoting rates that we think justify our skills.
You Learn When You Don't Get Paid
I'm not sure if Karma is a bitch, but fate actually is, especially so when you choose to freelance.
In the first year of our freelancing careers, we are all quite excited to care about any legal terms when someone offers us a project. We're enthusiastic, quite a bit so. So we just take that damn project, put our unmatched writing skills to work and produce the best effin content in the world. Only that it doesn't end in a "happily ever after."
We complete the work, deliver the project. Then they don't pay us. Then we sob in a corner. Take a lesson. And fuck right off.
It is "extremely tough to identify a fraudster until they don't pay you. Yes, at times clients ditch even after NDA and contract," said Rashmi.
For me, my first such experience was in May 2018 (yes, you can't forget such things). I worked for a client and produced content worth almost ₹27,000. And then he blocked me on Skype. THE END.
Do let me know if you felt the pain I portrayed through the above emoticon.
But hey, wait. Don't be disheartened. I'm working on my next article where I share how you can manage to keep away from all these problems and grow your freelance career.
Don't forget to leave your thoughts about this article in the comments below.