If you haven’t yet taken the plunge and gone self-employed, you might be wondering what the advantages of being freelance are.
You might be thinking to yourself: “Surely, you have to endure feasts and famines; you don’t get a regular salary paid into your bank each month; and it’s down to you to find all your own work?”
Yes, that is true enough. But, for me, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. That’s why, next month, I will be celebrating my 22nd year as a freelancer. I value the fact I can take time out to do a gym class during the day if I want to. I also don’t have to endure public transport at rush hour 10 times a week. And I don’t have to put up with office politics or difficult colleagues.
I decided to ask some of my friends and business contacts why they like being self-employed and here is what they said:
For me, working as a freelancer has afforded me the opportunity to build a career for myself whilst still being a ‘stay at home mum’ to my boys. Although they are in their teens now, having the flexibility to run them around as necessary has meant that I can still be around when they need me. Something that wouldn’t have been possible had I gone back to a 9-5 job.
It’s been a great way for me to build something myself; I get a great deal of satisfaction looking at my clients and the work I do for them knowing it was me that made all that possible. It’s far more rewarding than any other job I have done in the past and the flexibility of being able to set my own hours is priceless.
Being self-employed can have its own particular challenges – coping with poor income months, keeping your self-discipline to balance marketing and delivery, ensuring you grow enough to meet ambitions and yet keep back enough to pay your tax at year-end. But it can provide wonderful advantages – making your own choices as to your direction and self-development, finding projects and work that stretch your skills, capabilities and experience in exciting and unexpected ways, working with so many different company and country cultures.
I first set up on my own 22 years ago and I primarily did so because I never wanted that Monday morning feeling again, and I never have. It has given me a great life, taking me to every continent in the world.
I really value setting my own agenda and being able to choose amazing clients to work with. Working to my own hours is a delight, I now linger over a delicious breakfast before starting work around 11am and I work through to 7pm or 8pm, which suits my wedding and personal portrait clients who can have a chat through their photography outside working hours.
During the day I have the freedom to pop out and shoot some personal work if the light is fabulous too. Working on my own from home means I’ve now built an invaluable network of online ‘colleagues’ who offer a wealth of support and advice and it’s great to follow up with meet-ups in ‘real’ life. Also, coffee and cake is a big treat, so I love incorporating cool/cute coffee shops into my day for client meetings and networking wherever I can!
The daily grind, who needs it? Before self-employment, commuting meant I knew more about my employer’s location than the town where I lived. Now, thanks to technology and mobility, I know what’s going on in my local community but I can still sit at my desk working with the world. Being freelance also fits in beautifully with family needs.
Few employers but myself would let me do the school run and drop off at Brownies, and all the other myriad things you have to do as a working mum. It does mean I sometimes work odd hours and late ones to fit it all in, but it’s all on my terms. I love it.
Harmer Editorial Services
I’m writing this as I sit on the terrace of a cafe on the Spanish island of Ibiza. For today this is my office. And it’s this freedom to work when, where and how I want that was my main objective when I set up my business. From the beginning I created the systems so that I can work this way while being able to fully serve my clients, and I’m happy to report that it works!
My income isn’t capped by what somebody else determines for me – I am the one in control now of how much I make. With this in mind I get to make balanced decisions about whether I want to pursue revenue generating activities that week, spend some time doing something more creative, or take time off altogether!
Financial decisions become much more grounded and centred in what my true needs are, versus striving to please someone else’s expectations of me!
New Feminine Finance
All I wanted was to continue employment after finding myself on the redundancy scrapheap at the age of 50. I could never have envisaged that I would soon be working in Whitehall for the MOD, training staff at a dozen universities, teaching doctors at the EC in Brussels, or working for the UN in three countries.
And that’s not even a half of it. I should be retiring – but with so much variety and interest – why would I want to do that? Must stop – I am just preparing for business trips to Edinburgh and then for another, the following week, in Copenhagen.’
Writing for the Web
Apart from the business aspects…one of the biggest life changes for me for the better is being able to have a dog. I cannot tell you how much joy Jimmy has brought us. He’s amazing on so many levels. He gets me away from my desk twice a day – which means I exercise, come rain or shine. He has the most calming effect with his beautiful temperament.
If I’m having a bad day I only have to spend five minutes with him and my mood has lifted. And having a dog has such a brilliant social aspect too. People talk to you when you have a dog – other dog walkers or people who just like dogs. Jimmy’s funny, cute, affectionate, and very handsome (but really doesn’t care how I look)! I can’t imagine life without him.
One of the biggest advantages of freelancing for me is being able to arrange my time to my natural body rhythms. As I am one of life’s ‘larks’, I am most productive in the mornings, so can focus on heavy duty, big project work before the rest of the world gets it up. After lunch and mid-afternoon, my mind is less focused so I can do all those the quick, five minute jobs. And if my mind has gone off for a particularly long lunch, I can just stop and do something else without feeling guilty!
I’m at home when my children go to school and I’m here when they return. In between, I work – not commute, not sit in pointless meetings but actually work. I’m able to collaborate with smart creative people and I love what I do. That’s what freelancing means to me.
No more boring, useless internal meetings! No more creating major internal presentations that lead to nothing! No more waiting ages to get approval for an innovative project that could transform the company and then getting a no!
I get to make the decisions now — I only attend meetings and create presentations that are worthwhile and can make a difference to my business. What a relief and joy to cut out so much effort spent on dead ends!
Marshall Walker – The LinkedIn Tutors
As my children were growing up, working for myself from home enabled me to hammer, solder and polish away in my studio while they occupied themselves in the rest of the house; so no awkward juggling to have time off during the school holidays.
I was always at home to greet the kids when they returned from school, even though I often worked quite long hours I was not absent. All of my limited energy was put to good use and not used up commuting.
Now there are no compulsory, character building, nasty outward-bound courses to feel obliged to ‘enjoy’, hurrah.
Hotmetal Contemporary Jewellery
Although running your own business can be hard work, I decided early on only to work with people I really like and whose approach to business inspired me. My clients are wide ranging but I can say that I really enjoy working with them and learn a lot in the process. Working this way means that you do your best work and often become more involved with a client’s business. On a day to day level, working for myself means that I notice the seasons more. I take time out every day to run with my dog and I’m really aware of the weather – something I barely noticed when I commuted to the City every day.
What are the advantages you enjoy most about being self-employed?