We’ve all heard stories from others about the dangers—and delights—of freelancing. But let’s face facts: plenty of those stories are pure fiction. As someone who has freelanced for more than a dozen years, I want to expose the myths and reveal the deeper truths.
Myth 1: Work is hard to come by.
“You’ll never find enough work!” This is, simply put, false. People who say things like this are the ones who didn’t look hard enough and/or didn’t have a system for finding and pitching clients. Check local job listings, online freelance boards, or go out and talk directly with owners of small businesses. There is lots of work out there.
If you’re expecting work to magically fall from the sky, then you might be disappointed. But if you’re looking for it, you’ll find it.
The most difficult part of finding work might be ensuring your skills and portfolio are strong enough to land you the job. (So, if the people telling you this myth aren’t good at their job and/or don’t have the portfolio to prove it, then of course they had trouble finding work.) Find tips for creating a knock-out freelance portfolio here.
Myth 2: Work is easy to come by.
You know the saying: Nothing worth having comes easy. Well, at least not in the beginning. As I said, there’s more than enough work for you. But at the same time, you can only get it if you’re prepared to hustle. Simply putting up a website won’t automatically mean clients will be lining up outside your (digital) door.
It’s up to you to find the work for yourself.
But you don’t get a free pass to blame myth #1, without truly searching for work. There are tons of nonprofits, small businesses, solopreneurs, and big businesses who you can pitch.
It won’t be “easy” to find work…until something clicks. It’s not unlikely that, once you get going, once you really put yourself out there, businesses will start getting in touch with you. You may get calls from referrals, or from places you never expected. At times, you may not have space in your schedule for all the work available to you.
And at other times, you’ll have to hustle.
Even if it’s not easy, it’s important to remember: There is work available. Somewhere. From someone.
Myth 3: You get to work in your pajamas every day.
Dozens of websites want to sell you the dream of making seven figures while working only a few hours a day in your PJs. Does that sound too good to be true? Then it probably is!
Now, it is true that you can make a fantastic living as a freelancer. And you can spend some time working from home in your pajamas if you want. But, you will make even more money if you are willing to put on real clothes sometimes.
Clients are looking for people who are easy to work with and who they can trust. Therefore, make yourself available to meet—in real life, with real pants on—if that’s what your client wants.
Even if you’re meeting via Zoom or other video conferencing, having pants on is key. You never know when you may have to move around. There are few things more embarrassing than having your Spongebob pajama bottoms caught on camera.
And here’s a secret: working in your pajamas can get old fast. The truth is, working from home can be isolating. It is hard to meet new people and network. Since a lot of your work is going to come through your networking efforts, it can be important get out of your house to meet people.
Pajamas are comfy, but you’ll need a more traditional wardrobe if you really want to rake in the big bucks.
Myth 4: You can only freelance if you do it full-time.
Sure, full-time is definitely an option—you can make a really good living this way. But at the same time, you have skills that lend themselves to “back-pocket jobs”: that is, skills you can pull out of your back pocket when you want (or need) to earn a little more money. You can use your skills however and whenever you like. You may choose to make your freelance career your full-time job… But you’re also free to freelance on the side, as a part-time gig, or on an as-needed basis.
No matter how many hours you focus on your freelance career, knowing how to make money with your skills will give you financial and career security.
Myth 5: Freelancing is for the young.
Your work will be judged almost completely on what you put out. (Naturally, professionalism and courtesy go a long way, too.)
If you are great at what you do, your clients won’t care whether you’re 18 or 88. There’s no reason for them to even know your age.
But if you are 88, don’t fall into the “I know everything there is to know” trap. Change is the only constant, so there’s always something new to learn in every career. Absolutely use your experience, but always be willing to learn and improve. You can start freelancing at any age, and you can keep doing it for as long as you’d like.
Your turn! Did I miss anything? What other myths have you heard about freelancing? Let us know in the comments below!