Sunday, October 30, 2022

Independent thinking – Why freelance?


[laptop with many sticky notes*]

Becoming a freelancer can be a leap of faith, act of desperation, natural direction, considered choice or, most probably, some combination of those. In practice, people begin their freelance careers for reasons involving positive choice, need or general dissatisfaction. Regardless of why they begin, long-term success as an entrepreneur requires clear emotional benefit from “doing on your own”.

Some people have a very clear picture of their future. Even if they are unaware of the reasons, they actively search for specific elements in their job choice and are willing to ignore all disadvantages of a life style. For example, many entrepreneurs want to make as much money as possible, as simple as that. They measure their success by their income, using that as a base for all decisions. In the past, many such people gravitated to sales but today startups also provide an ideal playing field for entrepreneurs driven by the need to be rich. Others are less concerned about their income, to a certain point, of course, but seek work where they will be their own boss. They simply do not tolerate bosses and choose to avoid the issue by being independent. For these people, freelancing provides an ideal framework.

Far more freelancers began their journey due to a lack of choice. The corona crisis only accelerated the trend of redundancy. Due to mechanization, computers and online communication, many jobs have changed in nature, not always to employee satisfaction, or disappeared completely. The “collateral damage” is countless workers, young and old, unemployed or underemployed, that need to find a way to earn an income. “Work at home” is often the only option, however alien that concept is to the person initially. Even those fully employed often find themselves struggling to make the end of the month and seek additional sources of income during their free time. In some cases, chronic health issues, such as stress-linked illnesses, make it clear that it will be impossible to continue the current lifestyle. As they say, necessity is the evil stepmother of invention.

Sometimes, a feeling of general dissatisfaction pushes people to seek alternative employment, part time or full time. It may that after 20 years, the job is no longer interesting. There are cases of people feeling that their talents and contributions are underappreciated. Many older workers feel that they are ready both professionally and emotionally to go out on their own as their current place of employment no longer offers them any challenge. Regardless of the cause of this malaise, this search for a better situation pushes workers to jump into the deep water and see what they can do.

Yet, as in most enterprises, many of those that attempt to freelance give up within a short period of time. However romantic freelancing may seem in terms of income, freedom and self-realization, it also involves long hours, uncomfortable tasks, uncertain income and direct criticism, justified and unjustified. The path to success is not clearly marked. Thus, entrepreneurship also includes errors, disappointments, failures and doubt. While some overcome those issues, many budding freelances do not have the nature or resources to do so and return to their employee status. There is no shame in that as not everybody can handle the uncertain lifestyle of a freelancer.

The key for success as an independent is having a strong basic instinct (to cite Silence of the Lambs). If a person is clear why they choose a certain life style, the attendant difficulties are much less meaningful. For example, if a person wants to have a “six- figure income”, the effort and sacrifice required to attain this goal is not a deterrent. Likewise, if a balanced life style is the goal, a reduction in income is a minor price to pay for a happier life. In my case, having the ability to say yes or no to a project gives me the freedom to work as hard as I want and can, a wonderful feeling after so many years in the golden cage of salaried teaching. It is not that I work less hours but I relish the fact that I am able to choose what, how and when I will work, within reason of course. Freelancing, like any life choice, is fundamentally choosing your priorities.

The reasons people choose to work for themselves vary and generally involve many factors. However, the key to long term freelance success, defined as satisfaction with one’s work, involve an awareness of key priorities and the price to be paid for attaining them. If a person wakes up in the morning looking forward to the coming challenges, the choice to go independent was truly correct thinking.

* Picture captions allow the blind to fully access the Internet.

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