Free As a Bird! Is It Time to Embrace the Freelance Lifestyle?
by Chris King

In his landmark book, Free Agent Nation: How America’s New Independent Workers Are Transforming the Way We Live, Daniel H. Pink writes, "So maybe it's not all about the Benjamins, or the promotions, or the growth. Maybe Bob Dylan, and not Puff Daddy, holds the answer. `A man is a success,' Dylan sang, `if he gets up in the morning and does what he wants to do.'" ... Is it time for you to start working for yourself? In this article I will address some of the pros and cons of freelance living.

What holds us back from pursuing what we really want to do? Your fulltime job is no longer fun, or there is rumor of downsizing coming, or you have been laid off already. You’ve decided that you are ready to go out on your own, but doubts are holding you back. If the idea of pursuing a freelance lifestyle appeals to you, you must be willing to risk change. Two feelings that tend to hold us back from taking a risk are low self-esteem and fear.

Self Esteem: you either like yourself or you don’t. To raise your self esteem, practice positive self talk, embrace your uniqueness (review your assets and strengths), keep a journal and surround yourself with people who believe in you. Ask them to tell you what talents and strengths they feel you possess.

Fear holds us back in a plethora of ways. Ask yourself which of the following fear or fears is holding you back: failure, success, I'll get hurt (physically, emotionally/psychologically), the unknown, poverty, criticism and loss of love. For years we’ve had the idea of the importance of security drummed into us. And, leaving the security of a fulltime career - even if it is distasteful - can be extremely threatening. There are no guarantees when we are out there on our own. But, are there where you work now?

Here are some of the pros that work for me in my freelance lifestyle:

  • Flexibility and Autonomy (being in control). I love having the flexibility of doing what I want and need to do, when I want to do it. I can work late into the night, early in the morning, or all afternoon. It is up to me. As part of my schedule, I teach fitness classes most mornings, so work my projects and meetings around those classes. I also like the flexibility that comes with taking on projects that I enjoy and turning down those that don’t appeal to me.
  • Creativity and Change. By working in a variety of areas and for a variety of clients, I have the opportunity to approach each project with a fresh burst of creativity. It keeps me filled with excitement, enthusiasm, and energy which when combined really pay off for the client too. Even when I am hired by the same client again and again, the type of projects usually change.
  • Achievement along with Development of Expertise and Many Skills. Being a lifelong learner, I am delighted when hired to tackle a new project that involves upgrading my expertise and skills. Also, whenever I am between projects, and even when I am in the middle of them, I continually take classes and work on achieving new levels of expertise. And seeing a project through to completion gives one a great sense of accomplishment.
  • Pleasure Doing What One Likes. There are so many benefits to pursuing what we like and love to do. I feel that it strengthens our emotional and physical health, gives meaning to our lives, and adds to our growth as a human being. I am not a millionaire financially, but I can honestly say that as a free agent and independent professional, I go to bed at night smiling and I get up in the morning excited and happy to start all over again.

Now that we have examined some of the reasons to embrace a freelance lifestyle, it is time to address some of the cons:

  • Taking the Risk. There is always risk involved when we work for ourselves. Will we get enough work to sustain us and our bank account? Will we choose and/or find clients that are agreeable to work with? Will we do the level of work that our clients will be pleased with? I could go on for pages listing questions filled with doubt. My recommendation is to have faith in your abilities, realizing that if you love what you are doing, you have a strong chance that you will succeed. Risk comes with everything we do and can make what we do that much more exciting.
  • Change Coupled with a Lack of Stability and a Regular Routine. If you have trouble dealing with change and a lack of stability, I suggest that the lifestyle of a free agent or freelancer is not for you. If just setting up a whole new routine and dealing with not having a regular nine to five job really threatens your peace of mind, you might want to ease into freelance living by taking on an extra part-time job while keeping your full-time job until you are established in your new career.
  • Can Be Overwhelming when Deadlines Overlap. Living the freelance life can vary from having too much free time in between projects to being overwhelmed by too many projects all coming due at the same time. We have some control over this if we have the “guts” to be up front with our clients about our time schedules. I usually sit down and map out my timeline for a project and then add on more time for the unforeseen and interruptions, and once I see it all on paper, I know that I can produce by the deadlines. In the beginning, we are so anxious to have projects, it is easy to overload ourselves with pressures that only work against us and rob us of our energy.
  • Lack of Company Benefits and Lack of Company. Most freelancers lament the lack of contact with others on a regular basis more than the lack of company benefits and receiving a regular paycheck. It is easy to get so involved with a project that you sit at your desk or computer all day, so it is important to set up dates with friends and former co-workers. That is another benefit of my teaching fitness classes. I have constant interaction daily with others. I also make the effort to attend networking events and programs and meetings put on by organizations specializing in my areas of expertise. Also, in the area of benefits, there are associations and organizations that offer benefits packages to the small business owner who is a member. If you are concerned about health insurance, this can offer a reasonable way to go.

If freelancing still appeals to you, just do it! I could list many more pros and cons - and I am sure you can too - but I think that if you are truly considering becoming an independent professional, why not do it NOW?


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