Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.
IT’S A LIE!!
Just the other day, the family got together and a distant relative said, “You work for yourself? Must be nice...” My cousin, munching on some cheeda (south Indian snack), immediately butted in “No boss, no schedule and no office.. Waah, what a life”
It was not the first time I have heard this. I have had people from all walks of life telling me something on those lines, just 10 minutes into meeting them. They either think that (a) I generally sell my services for close to free or
(b) I am living life to the fullest because I am exactly that, free.
Almost everyone feels that the freelance / entrepreneur life is bliss.
Okay, I shall let you in on a secret. The hustle is on everyday & I am busier than I was when I was employed!
The basic principle of freelance is built on the idea of having more time to do what you love. I took this call to have the freedom to work from home, to be free from spending 4 hours commuting in Mumbai, to be free from trappings of a workplace / job, to be free to do work on my terms.
The core idea is to strike (the mythical) work-life balance. I do not have to build my life around a corporate work schedule and have complete control over my work & personal time.
Yes, I put a tick mark against all those. Yet, a good part of my day is spent on developing more work & filling in that empty calendar.
You see, being a freelancer has its own Pros & Cons. To make you understand this in a better fashion, let me list a few “TRUTHS”
WEARER OF MANY HATS : You are Batman. No, not really. Just like him though, you are a one man army. I need to become the owner, business development lead, strategist, marketeer, troubleshooter, finance guy (No one's gonna help you make those invoices & you gotta file your own taxes!!) and a bunch of other roles. It is a heady mix. Apart from the learning curve involved, a lot of these tasks are transactional & administrative in nature. They take away a lot of your time and don't make you money!
Drive: I am not talking about long drives on weekend. One needs to have a strong drive to make things happen. Many times, I feel that it is less about skill and more about drive that will put you on the map. This is not to say that one does not need skills. You do, as much as any average corporate employee. But, what will set you apart is the drive, the ambition, the hunger to make it to top.In doing many things to achieve success / get paid enough, one may find it difficult to maintain the hunger. It is important to not not succumb to these temporary setbacks and keep working.
Managing Finances: Cash flow is important. For anyone who draws an assured paycheck at the end of every month, the worry about finances is considerably lesser. All of us have bills & EMIs to pay, we need to put food on the table and also have enough to enjoy life.
As a freelancer, money comes in when there is enough work. So, making a budget becomes extremely crucial. Some clients pay weekly, monthly or even quarterly. So, the budgeting needs to be done all the time to ensure that you are not walking a tightrope.
FINDING WORK / CLIENTS: As an employee, one does not need to worry about finding work. As a freelancer, the No 1 nightmare is finding a continuous source of clients. Why? When you have enough client, you have enough work, and eventually, enough money!
It is imperative that you find high quality, recurring and trusted clients. In a competitive environment, there are people who would be ready to do the job at a fraction of the cost. Hence, convincing the client of your worth and getting paid accordingly is a necessity.
PRIORITIZING / TIME MANAGEMENT: Prioritize. It is not something that people inherently do. By default, for most of us, our tasks are in the ‘do it now’ zone. As soon as we remember that we have to do it, we jump to getting it done. There is no one to tell you what to do, no one to count your hours, and no one is checking that you are done the work. If you don’t do it, you simply won’t be paid.
I personally follow the 4Ds theory :
Practicing this takes time and planning. I am yet to master this art completely. Baby steps, the, I guess!
This is not to say that Freelancing is all about stress. While it is, initially, about making a lot of adjustments, it does become easy after a while. The important thing here is to go all in at the very beginning to figure out the highs & lows.
Freelance has offered me a great life.
I have control over my time. I get to spend time with my family. Something that I sorely missed while at work. I enjoy spending afternoons with my 8 month old grow. It is a blessing to watch her grow.
I have flexibility of choice. I get to chose my clients, my project and the general niche that I would like to operate in. I also get to chose my work hours. I am an early morning person. My last workplace was a place where work started at 12 Noon! Now, I begin worK at 8 in the morning.
Better Lifestyle. Life, in general, gets better. You get more time relax. The commute is no more a part of your daily routine. Most importantly, I get to eat home cooked food, on time, everyday :)
Break free from rituals. If you are a person who does not like the stress of living out a routine ( 8 AM train, Check in at 10 AM, etc) The whole time consuming routine to & fro from work is gone and you save a lot of money & energy in the bargain :) You do not meet the same people everyday too :)
Set your own income: As a freelancer, you are not only in a position to control your income, but also increase it. Let me also be the first to tell you that earning more comes with experience. When you grow, you may start delegating work to other amateur freelancers. The options are endless.
These were a few points that I felt I should share with people / fellow freelancers. I am sure many people out there would be able to add on to this.
So, Is freelancing for you?
I do not know that. In my opinion, it is just like anything else in life. You have great days and some not so great days. Sometimes you win & sometimes you let go. Some people prefer the stability & the paycheck that comes along with a steady job and people like me prefer the flexibility & lifestyle that freelancing offers!
Like I mentioned in my previous article, make a priority list, speak to your mentor / partner, consult a friend who is already a freelancer / entrepreneur and then take an informed call.
In the end, What matters is that you determine your goals and plan a way to get there, whatever that looks like.
I hope this helps all of you in a small, but meaningful way. Some of the things were not taught to me. What are the things no one told you about freelance / Entrepreneurial life?
Let me know :)