Life as a freelancer: climbing the ladder without a tenure

Man drinks coffee while checking Career Analytics
Man drinks his coffee while opening his computer and checking Career Analytics to see what next career steps to take

A career as a freelancer may sound like a risky and precarious undertaking, but once you take the plunge you will discover that there are many advantages to being self-employed. However, a working life packed with freedom can also be a life of constant uncertainty. In this article, Josie lists a few pros and cons for you to consider before taking the courageous step of standing on your own two feet.

The outcome of a recent study conducted in the United States shows that a staggering 42 million Americans currently freelance. So if you are thinking of becoming one, you’re certainly not alone. It’s also not hard to get started, because actually you don’t need much to switch things around. What you do need however, is a fair amount of confidence in your capabilities, no matter what career path you wish to follow. Our advice is to carefully outweigh the many consequences that becoming a freelancer entails before you decide to cut the cord. Let’s start by managing your expectations.

A career of uncertainties

The first thing that comes to mind of what life as a freelancer is about, is definitely how amazing it would be to enjoy the freedom of making your own schedule – week in week out. Although part of that is true, you do have to realize that with great power comes great responsibility. At the end of the day you’re still working for a boss and you still have plenty of deadlines to meet. Without anyone to follow your progress, it requires a lot of discipline and time management to make it worth your while. If you can manage that however, you’ll soon notice that – especially as a freelancer – hard work pays off: the average income is 45% higher than that of a normal worker. To actually get there you do need plenty of clientele though, which brings up another potential stumbling block. Your future as a freelancer can be very uncertain, even if you are great at what you do. Unforeseen circumstances such as sickness on your side or bankruptcies on your client’s side are always lurking, so you’ll need a strong personality and a backup plan in case that happens. Besides, have we mentioned the never-ending story of doing your taxes yet? If you’re still convinced that freelancing is for you, we strongly recommend you to marry an accountant.

Promotion without a boss

If your main concern about becoming a freelancer is the lack of potential career advancement, that’s perfectly understandable. After all, there are no tangible ways to actually get a promotion, and you might think that at some point your development will come to a halt. Although it’s true it might take years to see you reap the benefits of freelancing, always remember that building an extensive portfolio and a solid network is part of the deal. Once you’re able to accept that, you’ll find out soon enough when it’s time to higher your rates, which in a way is a promotion in itself. Don’t be afraid to do so and do it before it’s too late: a higher hourly rate also implies more quality. If you keep your rates too low for too long, you might scare off companies that think you are not qualified enough, which in the long run could seriously harm your credibility. One of the major signs you are doing a pretty good job, is when you realize you have the ability to choose your projects, all because you earned it solely through your reputation. It’s a big privilege that at the same time stipulates another major pro of the freelancer life. If you’re great at what you do and happy in the process, there’s no need to upskill or widen your horizon. You will never be forced to, but at the same time you will always have the option to do so when you feel like it : a liberating feeling that perfectly underlines the ‘free’ part of being a freelancer.

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