Sometimes, the way that you think is what’s stopping you from growing as a freelancer.
Freelance myths are something that every freelancer has to get over when they first get into the industry. Usually, when you tell people that you’re thinking about freelancing, you get three kinds of responses:
- That person expresses their envy of you.
- That person talks about that they thought of it once but haven’t acted on it.
- Or they start talking to you about some of those freelance myths and misconceptions around freelancing.
While there are definitely perks to freelancing that a typical day job won’t enjoy, it’s not an easy spot to be in. And those misconceptions about the job and the industry itself could in fact stall your own growth and progress in this industry.
Some of these myths could also be lingering well after the initial phase of freelancing and stunt your growth.
So to help with this, here are some of the biggest myths I’ve been able to scrounge up and debunk right here.
Freelancing Isn’t Reliable
While this will differ from person to person the majority of freelancers out there will say the exact opposite of this. Naturally, freelancing is a business and no business is ever immune to shifts and changes to the world and the marketplace. However, despite a few recessions and a global pandemic impacting the market, freelancing is still reliable.
The first reason is that freelancing gives you the opportunity to build multiple streams of income. This can come in the form of multiple projects. According to Freelancing in America: 2019, freelancers in America had an average of five projects on the go.
Furthermore you can easily branch off beyond that if you need the money. I’m a freelancer and I run a blog, write on other platforms, and I plan to build other streams of income in the future.
Freelance Myths: You Can Wear PJs All Day
This is likely the first of many freelance myths you’ll hear from people: the opportunity to wake up and work your PJs for the rest of the day. After all, you’re home all day so you get to do whatever you like right?
Well there is truth to that, but it’s still a myth nonetheless. After all, if you’re not leaving the house, you can wear comfy clothes. But it’s this way of thinking that can be so destructive for reasons other folks who work from home can attest to now.
While you could be wearing PJs all day, there is something special about actually getting dressed as if you’re heading to an office. In fact, the reason we freelancers do this is that it makes us feel more productive and professional.
Working from home is a privilege, however it’s not a reason for us to slack off. Freelancing requires discipline or things will get out of hand.
Freelancing Is Lonely Work
This is one of the freelance myths that I fell into early on. In fact, it’s kind of the reason why my growth was stunted for two years before I put genuine effort into it. That and sheer laziness and procrastination.
It makes sense when you think about it though. While we see freelancing as a luxury, it wedges you into working from home. That comes with it’s own perks, but also side effects. For one, you need to be getting out and seeing other people.
Even though some freelancers can be social people — in fact many are great at it — some people get in their head that since they work from home they don’t need to connect with other people. Just focus and do work.
It gets them to believe that freelancers everywhere are just these lonely people. Especially the writers like myself who sit at home all day. The reality is that even during this pandemic, I’m still trying to get out and about. I’m devoted to going to the gym on my workout days, I also take advantage of opportunities to meet other people and attend small social events when I can.
While being lonely can definitely happen in this line of work, it’s your responsibility to get out there and do something about it.
Freelancing Isn’t Stress-Intensive
Another aspect that people think working from home will introduce is an easier environment. Beyond that, people think it’s not as stressful of a job when you compare it to a typical day job. The reality is that freelance work isn’t so different from typical day jobs. In fact, freelancing could be more stressful in certain circumstances.
One thing that freelancing introduces quickly is that you have way more responsibilities than what you think initially. Unless you’ve got money to spend delegating tasks you’ll often be doing your own marketing, web and graphic design, closing contracts, collecting payments and doing the actual work you were contracted to do.
This is only scratching the surface of what you’ll be doing as there are a few other odd tasks here and there you’ll have to do. Like accounting, filling out tax forms, and hiring staff.
If that’s not enough, it’s also a common thing for freelancers to over-deliver on their services. In 2016, FreeAgent found that over a third of freelancers polled were working over 48 hours each week with 6% of them working over 64 hours a week. Part of that can come from freelancers wanting to deliver above and beyond. In some cases, it’s due to the amount of client work they’ve taken on.
Freelance Myths: You Have No Boss
The thought of owning a business is appealing to many as “you get to be your own boss.” It’s one of those lines that’s dropped in network marketing pitches too and I won’t deny they’re tempting. But this is often a huge misconception.
In network marketing there is still some hierarchy to it. You can’t get fried from your work but there is still going to be people you’ll follow and listen to similar to a manager.
In freelancing though, you’ll be taking on multiple projects and work for various people. In those kinds of relationships, your client is still calling all the shots. They’re the ones setting deadlines, using your work to the best of their ability and so on. In the case of my own work — as a ghost writer — my name isn’t even mentioned on the work. I don’t have the full rights to that work despite me writing it.
Even though we think of those relationships as freelancer/client, it’s still not that different from an employee/manager relationship. You have a boss in a technical sense. Nevertheless, you’ll want to spend time growing that relationship as the strong relationships are what really allow you too succeed.
Freelancers Don’t Run A Business Therefore Don’t Talk About Money
Another big myth that I found is the fact people think they have no business sense. In fact, some say they’re not even running a business. They’re just a freelancer and that’s it.
To that I say:
“If you’re thinking about your personal branding, your clients, or even getting paid, you’re running a business. You are an entrepreneur as much as you are a freelancer.”
Just as freelancing allows you to be your own boss, you also become your business in the process. And your business is an extension of yourself. So everything that you think and do will have some kind of impact on the business you’re running.
For example, if you’re not that financially savvy in your personal life, discussing money is going to be super awkward. Even in cases where you are absolutely entitled to it. This can also stem from other aspects of your life. Maybe you don’t see your work as valuable and you sell yourself too short.
In order to grow as a freelancer, not only do you need to put more value into your work in terms of actual worth but start asking people based on what you think it’s worth. The pricing plan that I use for my writing services is based on some simple data from an infographic I found. I’m sure you could find plenty of data out there for your work as well.
Beyond that, you’ll want to take responsibility for your actions as well. Whether you agree or reject opportunities, those are business decisions and will shape your business moving forward. With that in mind, spend time thinking it over — even if it takes a few minutes. It’s better to agree to decisions that you want to do rather than settle with anyone and anything that comes your way.
Freelance Myths: Demand For Independent Work Is Declining
The gig economy is rapidly growing with more and more people opening up to the idea of remote work. Even during the midst of a pandemic, companies are recognizing some of the benefits of remote work.
What’s also interesting is that a survey from Payoneer found that COVID-19 only caused a short-term drop in demand. According to the report, 32% of freelancers surveyed said that business dropped greatly in early 2020 when the virus first hit. But as things are starting to stabilize work is steadily coming back up.
Paired with the fact that people are starting to see the various perks of freelancers and remote workers, people are bound to be hiring now more than ever. Especially in the new year.
You Have To Work For Less (Or Free) To Get Ahead
While I have yet to face the brunt of this, I know others aren’t so fortunate about their freelance journey. My older brother for example did animation work for about a decade and worked with many teams during the process. I can say with confidence that most of the contracts he worked on early on were payments based on sales of the games he worked on.
To me, this is nothing short to someone saying “I’ll pay you in exposure.” This video best describes my feelings about that line.
I’m fortunate to be working with Upwork so I’ll never see that sort of talk, however freelancers on that platform can still get into the line of thinking of charging smaller numbers for their work.
This is definitely a consideration when a freelancer is looking for more work or to win more projects and keeping themselves busy. The reality is you should avoid that line of thinking and that if you are thinking about your pricing point it might have to do with other things.
For example, I associate pricing points based on our own self esteem concerning skills. If you think you’re not as skillful in the work, you’re going to be charging lower rates.
I also fell into this trap as well. Since this pandemic started, I did settle for work at a smaller rate. Partly because I could afford to, but deep down I wasn’t confident in my own abilities to make more money than I did before this pandemic hit.
Examples of these are many, but in the end, it’s important that you look for creative ways to grow. I’ve been pushing myself in the past few months to write more articles and to broaden my business further.
Beyond that, you can also look into revamping your pricing structure. I tend to do one every year or so depending on the circumstances.
Freelance Myths: Experience Is All That Matters
Stemming from the previous freelance myth, people think that experience is all that matters for a freelancer. It’s the reason for why freelancers will go crazy over gigs that pay them so little money or work for exposure right?
Again, part of that comes down to confidence issues on the freelancers part. Or maybe they think that having a broad portfolio is all that matters.
To me, this is a myth as experience isn’t everything. Over the three years of serious freelance work I’ve done I’ve worked with exactly 20 people. Out of that, most of them were one-time gigs as we weren’t the best fit.
For about five of them, I can say they were genuine clients that I’ve worked with for several months or even a year or so.
While you might think of it as sad, I still get plenty of offers. On top of that the prospects I do reach out to accept my offer for work.
Experience definitely does play into some things but I feel a lot of it comes down to how you compose yourself and communicate with others. I’ve reached a point where I feel comfortable joking with some of my clients and that has a way of deepening our bond.
Business is very much building a relationship as it is about doing the work and getting paid. I recall one client that let me go due to my skills not being what she was looking for saying the following:
“Your work isn’t what I’m looking for but unlike other freelancers you are so easy to work with. That’s why it’s so hard to determine if I should let you go.”
In the end we did, but it shows that your personality and how you fit into a group really matters as well as the work you are doing.
It Hurts Your Business To Be Picky
Again, I’ve worked with 20 clients over three years. That’s an average of 6–7 clients per year that I’ve taken in. While some of these are duds, it’s not out of the question for people to have way more clients under their belt at this stage.
The reason for that is many freelancers at the start think “beggars can’t be choosers” and settle for any kind of work that comes their way. This further drives the whole idea of people paying freelancers “in exposure” because people are looking for any kind of work. But I find this rabbit hole goes even deeper and causes so much damage.
Not only are you taking work you don’t really want to do, it also gives people different impressions than you’d expect. Someone who does many one-time gigs could come off as someone that’s harder to work with in some cases. Further driving my point that experience isn’t everything.
Beyond that, if you’re into saying yes to everything, you’ll find yourself driving yourself into a state of overworking and getting angry and resentful. You start to pick up unhealthy habits as well.
To avoid all this, you need to embrace being picky about your clients. While experience is important, the relationships you’re forming is what matters more. There are plenty of opportunities out there and rejecting one isn’t going to prohibit others from approaching you.
If you can show that you work well with people and put out somewhat decent work, people will approach you.
Let’s Stop Freelance Myths
Freelance myths will continue to persist despite our efforts, however, you can at least put a stop to them in your own business. Believing any of these myths will stunt your growth in so many ways as I can attest to from my own personal experiences. So if you do believe in these, seriously take some time to think them over. I’m sure that you’ll reach the same conclusion that I’ve drawn: these myths have no purpose but to slow you down.
To your growth!
Eric S Burdon