The Hard Side of Freelance

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Some time ago in one of my posts I declared my love to freelance. I really love it, and 7 years of purely freelance life haven’t disillusioned me. However, there is nothing ideal in our world, so I am aware of the other side of the story, and I think it’s time to look at it a little closer. Perhaps this post will be useful for those who are still hesitating whether they should move to freelance or stay in a corporate world, and I think it can give some food for thought to current freelancers too.

So I sat down and tried to recall any minuses of freelance. And you know, the more I was thinking about it, the more I understood that these are not minuses but challenges and difficulties. Some people love challenges, so these “minuses” could even turn into pluses for them. So let’s call it the hard side of freelance.

I distinguish 7 challenges coming to your life together with freelance:

  1. No benefits and social package

Probably this is the first thing mentioned by antagonists of freelance. For example, at first my parents and grandparents were so much concerned how I could live without a work book (this old-fashioned and absolutely useless employment document in Russia) and pension fund contributions. Now I’ll stop and note that the question of benefits is a far cry from the same in such countries as the USA or Canada. Further in this paragraph I am going to describe the situation in Russia and probably other countries of the former USSR with similar economics. So if you are not interested, please go to next paragraphs relevant for freelancers all over the world.

In Russia, if you leave in a provincial city, you almost don’t have opportunities to get worthy salary and benefits. Good social packages are mostly available for high officials. If you are not from this sphere (especially if you are a translator), but you still want to have a high standard of living, you either run your own business or move to freelance (which is also a kind of business, just a small one). These ways open new opportunities to get higher income, but looking after your social benefits is now up to you.

Of course, by law as a solopreneur you should send some part of your income to medical insurance and pension, but this is where the most interesting part starts. In Russia both freelancers and ordinary employees have access to a similar amount of medical services. Except that if I continued working in a translation agency for an average salary, I would have never allowed myself to consult private practices regularly, visit highly professional dentists, order medical tests for fee just because it is much quicker and more convenient. I would have never had a choice! Being a freelancer I’ve got this choice, and it doesn’t ruin my family budget when I need to save my time and nerves and use private medicine.

The same I can tell about pension. It’s not a secret that most companies in Russia register only minimal salary for their employees. Everything above is paid off record. It means that by retirement these people would get just a little more than those who are unemployed now. Moreover, considering how often our regulations change, you never know what can happen with our pension system in 20-30-40 years. Being a freelancer I have the same retirement perspective as regular employees, but I have a higher income now and I have a choice how to save money for future.

To sum it up, when you live in such city as Chelyabinsk (yes, it’s somewhere not far from Siberia), and you have a philologist degree, the best thing you can do is to leave an office and become a self-employed translator. Or you can move to Moscow or another country and scale new heights of that wonderful corporate world.

  1. Time management

Flexible working hours, non-standard working day, opportunity to work from almost anywhere — all that can be categorized as pluses of freelance. Nevertheless, it makes a big problem for many people: how to organize yourself in such a way so that you don’t overwork or procrastinate while performing effectively and earning good money. This is hard indeed.

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Many freelancers, even experienced ones, are in constant search for ideal time-management solutions, and sometimes they even have to fight against their selves. Not all people are able to easy discipline themselves, when they don’t have to stick to regular 8 to 5 schedule, and there is no boss behind the back. But once you address the problem seriously and develop your own optimized time-management schemes, you get the emotional response almost immediately. This feeling of accomplishment is incomparable and it brings professional satisfaction to your life. So, if you really want it and try to solve the problem, the minus can turn into plus quite soon.

  1. Fear of financial instability

Especially true for newbies in freelance. At the start it is better to have an alternative source of income, some savings, or a partner with a stable job. Experienced freelancers always diversify their sources of income never counting on a single regular customer. They also don’t stop promoting their services even when they are fully booked.

  1. Solitude

Arguable point for me. For example, an introvert would consider solitude a benefit of freelance, but some people hate working alone. They need regular office parties and real-life communication with small talks near the water cooler. There are some ways to relieve a burden of solitude, and it is not necessary to come back to the corporate world.

One of the most obvious ways is a co-working. It gives you a feeling that you are not alone, you can discuss some problems with your colleagues, but at the same time you are always free to leave an office and move back to work from home.

If you lack human communication in your freelance life, it can be easily solved. Just make a few efforts. Fill your life with something else except work: buy a gym membership (it would be also very good for your health), start dancing, drawing or find some other hobby you are interested in. Meet with your friends as often as possible. By the way, I rarely reject an offer to see my friends even if I have some work to do. After all, sometimes it is fine to work at night because you had a great evening with great people. Much worse is when one day you wake up and find yourself in an absolute solitude because work was more important for you in the past. Be careful! And don’t forget about your cultural development: concerts and theatres are still in a fashion.

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What about me, I solved the solitude problem in an instant: I moved to freelance together with my husband (he is a translator too). So, I don’t feel any lack of communication, both professional and personal. This is the ideal variant for me.

  1. Everything is at your own expense

This is probably the only clear-cut point. This is something you just have to learn to live with. Nobody will pay for your software, professional courses, conferences, and so on. From now on there is only you who should be concerned about your professional growth. And yes, sometimes you need to chase away your feelings of greed, when it is hard to direct another big sum from your family budget to one more necessary PC tool or great professional training.

  1. You should do things you don’t like or don’t know much about

If you are a freelancer, you should be ready to deal not only with your adorable profession, but also with many minor responsibilities without which it is impossible to run your business: new customers search, project management, finance, accounting, let alone social media marketing. All that is a part of freelance daily routine. Even if you are a linguist to your fingertips and all these numbers and calculations are your nightmare, you still have to report for taxes and do accounts.

You have 2 options here:

  • Accept the state of things and develop your own convenient system of doing unpleasant work, so that your minor responsibilities don’t take too much time;
  • Delegate those responsibilities you hate or those you don’t want to waste your precious time on. Of course, you’d have to spend some money, but it would save you nerves and sanity and you would be able to devote all your time to your favorite job.
  1. Your relatives and/or friends don’t understand or approve your choice

Purely emotional thing, which may still worry some freelancers. When I started freelancing, my relatives could not understand that I was doing a real job. Now when they see that my “sitting at home without any social guarantees” brings me enough money for good living and traveling, they almost never speak against my way of life.

The only exception: my parents think that working in a social isolation is bad for forming the world outlook. I can’t agree here. I am happy to work with my only colleague — my husband. I had some experience of working in a team of colleagues, and I don’t want to go back to this time. I feel much more comfortable and calm where I am. The lack of “world vision” (the term according to my parents) is compensated by our travels all over the world and communication with people we like.

Well, the post turned out to be much longer than planned, but I tried to look at freelance disadvantages or challenges (depends on how you look at them) as close as possible. If you have more points about freelance life to add to this list, please let’s discuss it in the commentaries. What don’t you like about freelance or what makes you think about leaving freelance?

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3 thoughts on “The Hard Side of Freelance

    1. Thank you for your comment, Steve! I’ve checked out your post and absolutely agree with it. At the moment I see the freedom of travel as an especially important advantage. If you wish to change your location for a better one, you don’t need to care about finding a new job, and this is probably the main factor which stops employees from moving anywhere.

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