But what is "free" in freelancing, exactly?

But what is “free” in freelancing, exactly?

It's no different. Freelancing also costs [a bit of] your freedom.

This post originally appeared on GetCraft’s Crafters blog as “Freelancing is Falsely Advertised” back in April 2019. It is republished here with permission.


You’ve seen the posts.

Instead of a gloomy cubicle, Tim is hunkered over a rustic little stool in Siargao where he batters away developing a website for a Fortune 500 client. His work is mobile, so he can freely go on vacation. He can hop on client calls right after paddleboarding. He collects receivables 20,000 meters up in the air, on his flight to a spa in Bangkok.

It all sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?

I don’t mean to discredit those people’s successes, because I’ve seen it happen all around me. However, I think it advertises a false image of what freelancing is like for people outside of the 1%. For the rest of us, work-life balance is currently not a choice.

Nine times out of ten, you’ll find that freelancers’ lives are dictated by deadlines just as much as the traditionally employed. The difference is that there isn’t an imposing boss that breathes down your neck, a distinction that can bring both positives and negatives.

Freedom does not come from freelancing

As a freelancer, you aren’t tethered to the 9 to 5 grind like the rest, true, but you’re also tied to your goals. If you aim to earn a decent living as a freelancer, you won’t be able to do so by slacking around. You need to put in the work.

Freelance work isn’t structured as a regular day job. And as such, you will have to be self-aware and instinctive about your own work, which can take away even more of your time.

On the plus side, you have total control of your time and resources throughout your workday. On the other, you don’t always know if you’re spending your time and resources all that well without the presence of a superior who can guide you through.

It is, therefore, important to note this: Freedom does not come from freelancing itself. While it unshackles you from certain restrictions at work, it brings a host of new problems you’ll need to deal with.

So what gives?

You shouldn’t treat freelancing like work

Make no mistake: freelancing isn’t bad. It’s just falsely advertised.

Pundits promote it as a better alternative to a 9 to 5 job, where it’s simply a variation of the same enslavement to your work. So here are two ways you could approach it: Think about your freelancing career as your business, not just your job. Or, think of yourself as an agency which renders a service to a client. With this mindset, you’ll start thinking about:

Thinking about your freelance work as a business enables you to be more efficient and thusly earn bigger freedoms, including longer vacations.

If you don’t have much of an entrepreneurial mindset, you can think of your freelance career—be it writing, building websites, or carving pottery—as a passion.

In closing…

In contrast to what is going around, freelancing isn’t some magical thing that will give you total freedom. It’s an alternative way of life that teaches how to better manage your life at work and in general so you can best enjoy the certain privileges you have as a professional.