Ahhh…the freelance life!
Sitting barefoot on the beach, tapping away on your laptop, sipping a margarita, watching the sun set…and watching your bank account run dry as you pursue this false representation of what it means to be a freelance anything – writer, graphic designer, website designer, marketing consultant, or my favorite, freelance copywriter.
If you’re used to my normal upbeat, hopeful, and inspiring posts, you might want to skip this one and the next.
Yes, I’m delving into the dark side to expose the “freelance” hucksters who are selling you a pipe dream.
Today I’m going to talk about 11 things they’re not telling you about the freelance life.
Not to worry, though. I’ll also give you 11 Big Ideas in my next post to help you overcome this dark side of freelancing.
It’s all the basis of my upcoming book, Death of a Freelancer: 11 Big Ideas to Overcome the Dark Side of Freelancing.
This will give you a sneak preview, and before I jump in, just one more thing.
You can do whatever you want with the terms “freelancer” and “freelancing,” but I for one am burying them.
I see it as part of too many people’s titles, which doesn’t really add any substance or “oomph.”
And everywhere you look there’s a Freelance Institution, Association, or Club.
The idea of a having a J.O.B. and “working for the man” has been so vilified that the pendulum has swung the opposite way, glorifying the idea of being a freelancer.
You know what I’m doing here in the Copywriter Café? I’m “Turning Big Ideas and Copywriting Skills into Profitable Businesses” (my tagline).
In other words, I want to help you build your own business as an Independent Creative, rather than being a freelancer for hire.
Yes, it’s semantics, but it’s also positioning that will take you much further, and help you build true wealth for yourself, not just for your clients.
Here are 11 things the freelance pushers aren’t telling you:
1. You won’t make six figures in your first year.
In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to make six figures in your first three years.
2. There’s a good chance you’ll have negative cash flow your first year or two.
Yes, negative cash flow. No one talks about this because it’s embarrassing.
It will take a little while to get your business up and running, and during this time you’ll have both living expenses and business expenses that could very well add up to more than your freelance income.
What, nobody mentioned that!?
3. No perks.
No benefits, no paid vacation, no insurance, no 401k, no boss (yes, that can be a major problem for many freelancers), and nowhere to go on any given day, which leads to a loss of a sense of purpose.
4. Labeling yourself a freelancer means you’ve become a commodity.
Freelance copywriters, graphic designers, artists, and writers are a dime a dozen. You have to do much more to distinguish yourself and command the proper fees (details in Death of a Freelancer, part 2).
5. Freedom? Ha!
Think you’re only going to work 3-4 hours a day, then head to the beach like my freelance poster girl above? Think again.
If you don’t put in 50-hour weeks (or more) your first few years, your competition will. It’s a dog-eat-dog (or freelancer-eat-freelancer) world, and there’s no lack of new, hungry entrepreneurial types champing at the bit to make their mark.
6. Talent and proven work trumps programs and certifications.
Clients don’t care where you learned your skills or what associations you belong to. They want to see what you can do for them.
7. Clients don’t respect the term “freelancer” as much as before.
As more and more freelancers have flooded the market and hung out their shingle, aided by sites like Elance.com and Guru.com (legitimate sites, by the way), it’s cheapened the word “freelancer,” which means you have to do more to separate yourself from the pack.
8. It’s easy to spend a lot of money on programs and conferences put on by people who are not freelancers themselves.
It’s even easier to get sucked into the trap of buying “just one more program” that will give you the key to making it big. When that doesn’t work, you’ll buy another. I know, I’ve done it myself (and I’ve also found some true gems – again, stay tuned for part 2).
9. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up playing “follow the follower.”
In other words, you have a few mega-success stories, each revealing their “secret sauce.” The problem comes when hundreds, or even thousands, follow this one-size-fits-all advice, and after a while everyone starts to look and sound the same.
10. A-level copywriters will hire you at B-level (or worse) rates because their time is better spent running their business than writing copy.
You will be a cog in their machine, a pawn in their chess game, helping their business become very successful while you go from one freelance project to another, never building any true wealth yourself.
11. The laws of supply and demand don’t skip over the freelance world.
I spent four years of my life (four and a half, to be exact) getting a degree in Economics from the University of Wisconsin. I don’t remember most of what I learned, but I can tell you this: when there’s a greater supply of something (freelancers) than demand, prices (fees) go down.
Have I scared you off yet?
I hope not.
In spite of everything I just wrote, which I’ve either experienced myself or witnessed first-hand while working closely with freelance copywriters the past five years, I wouldn’t trade what I do for the world.
My life is immeasurably better because I chose to be a copywriter.
I spend more time with my wife and kids, I make good money, and I travel the world, bringing my work with me.
But…you have to do things differently.
No more following the herd. No more cookie-cutter game plans. No more mass-produced “road maps.”
The lights have gone out on the old freelance model.
A new day has dawned, and it’s a bright future for those who embrace the new Independent Creative model.
Stay tuned for Part 2, where I give you 11 Big Ideas to overcome this dark side of freelancing, and triumph.
Are you with me? I’d love to hear your thoughts so far. Give me some quick feedback here.