As I listened to a former coworker of mine tell me about her ongoing workplace woes, I couldn’t help but feel thankful. Why? Because I quit working for that employer almost two years ago. In those (almost) two years of time, I have stumbled, then grown, and finally flourished as a freelancer. And the benefits that I’ve enjoyed along the way are numerous.
Here are just 10 of the many benefits I’ve enjoyed during my (relatively) short freelance career:
1. Setting my own work hours.
I could never figure out what was so magical about the 9-to-5 shift; all I know is that getting up unnaturally early at 6 or 7 AM, while the rest of the world is still sound asleep, is just depressing. And despite my drinking steady amounts of coffee at my desk, I’d still find myself dozing off by 2 PM. Nowadays, I know that my night owl schedule is best for both me and my creativity. Yeah, I get up no earlier than 8:30 AM on most days, but then I’m roaring until 2 AM in the morning. During the afternoons, I take off to run errands or work out. And none of my clients are tapping their feet because I’m five or even 50 minutes late to my job.
2. Giving myself raises.
If I estimate that a freelance job is going to take me additional time or research, I increase the price of that job to account for these things. Likewise, as I gain more experience and know-how in my fields of expertise, I naturally increase my rates per hour or task. In theory at least, my ability to earn more and more money over time is limitless because I’m not earning by the hour in most cases. Also, negotiating for raises no longer fills me with dread; in fact, I enjoy sitting down with potential clients and outlining what value I bring to them and their businesses.
3. Trying and training for new things (without leaving old clients).
When I first started out as a freelance writer, I only knew how to write. However, as the world of freelance writing became more focused on content marketing and not just generation, I delved into e-commerce, SEO, branding, inventions and fundraising. I even started working in a marketing department. Never once during my career “transitions” did I think I was going to lose my old freelance writing clients. Indeed, my marketing experience was quite helpful for everyone concerned and actually increased my workload (and my pay scale).
When I started reporting for a local newspaper, additional assignments and opportunities popped up. As a freelancer, I’ve been able to try on many different work “hats”- and all without getting fired or having to quit my old job(s). This diversity of skills and duties has provided me with job security as well as prevented me from getting bored.
4. Outsourcing the boring stuff.
Speaking of getting bored…transcription is not my favorite type of work- but thanks to the miracle of outsourcing, it doesn’t have to be. I’m also not fond of spending hours of time poring over logos and editing images; fortunately, sites like Fiverr allow me to focus more on what I’m really good at and less on stuff that just eats up my time. At a regular 9-to-5 job, I’d never be able to pay someone $5 or $10 to take a boring or tedious assignment off my hands. However, in the freelance world, such work deflections are common.
5. Knowing my inherent abilities, talents and knowledge; i.e., my value.
Because I spend a significant amount of time negotiating for higher pay and better paid assignments, I’m always keeping my skills up-to-date or learning new tricks of the trade. I’m also keenly aware of what benefits I bring to the table and why someone should pay me X dollars for my services. For me, every day is interview day.
While this lifestyle might seem intimidating to some, it enables me to update my talents regularly and address the areas where I come up short. Such self-awareness also gives me self-confidence. This confidence is in sharp contrast to the fear I used to feel while shuffling off to work for my old employers, and my constant worries about being outsourced once my few skills were duplicated by a younger (i.e., cheaper) and sexier new hire.
6. Seeing my work-at-home business grow.
I’ve gone from earning $3/article at various content mills to pricing my services at $100/hour. I’ve given presentations about my business and been an invited speaker at several conferences. I’ve mentored aspiring freelancers and interviewed freelancers whom I one day aspire to be. And this is just in my first two years as a full-time freelancer.
Being a business owner, I alone hold the reins over my own career- not some middle manager or weasel of a coworker. I hold all the autonomy- and the responsibility. It really is all up to me- and that realization suits me just fine.
7. Knowing that I can quit anytime.
Freelancing enables me to work with many different clients. Having this assortment of clients gives me freedom; I’m not obligated to stay with any one specific client if I’m not too fond of him or her. Of course, working for an employer also means that I could (potentially) leave my job anytime (thanks to at-will employment); however, it’s not as easy to quit and replace a 40+ hour/week job than it is to find another client.
8. Helping other freelancers start and improve their work-at-home businesses.
One of the great joys of my newest career venture is helping other aspiring freelance writers. To this end, I’ve given several presentations on the topic of being a freelance writer. I also hope to teach an online freelance writer course on I’ve Tried That in 2014. In many cases, aspiring freelancers already have all the knowledge and skills they need to be successful- what’s lacking is self-confidence. Other times, aspiring freelancers just don’t know where to find decent-paying gigs and good clients. Both of these situations are easily fixed by supplying the right information.
9. Working for the worst boss in the world.
It may seem odd to say this, but I have a real %$#@! of a boss. She’s made me work during the weekends, until 4 AM, and a few times during major holidays like Thanksgiving and the 4th of July. My reward for getting all my work done is…getting more work. On my birthday, my boss begrudgingly let me take the day off instead of having me write additional articles.
But you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because this boss of mine has me and my career as her sole priorities. And time is short, as she likes to say. So every morning, when I look into the mirror, I tell her that I’ll do my best to make her proud.
10. Playing Angry Birds during work hours.
Speaking of making people proud, at least I can surf the web and catch up on my Angry Birds scores whenever I feel like it. I don’t have to “look busy” or dutifully sit in my office until the stroke of five. And if I feel like taking a short nap during my work hours, then so be it.
11. (Bonus!) Being a well-rounded individual and not just a specialist.
I was trained as a scientist (actually, as a geneticist)- but science isn’t the only thing I can talk about or do. I credit my freelance writing career for making me a well-rounded and more interesting individual. In what other profession can I learn about school boards one day, stock options the next, and then report on the latest car wrap scam? Likewise, how many scientists get to hob-nob with CEOs, analyze lab results at $100/hour, and then call it a day at 3 PM so they can take their dog for a walk?
As I pause over turkey and gravy…
It’s been quite the adventure since I resigned from my good-paying, “secure” job and taken on the freelance lifestyle. Through these nearly two years of freelancing, I’ve done and learned a lot more than I ever would have at my old cubicle-dwelling job. I’ve also made some great friends and allies along the way. To those of you who have wondered, I’ve earned more money too.