When I first started my freelance career nearly 20 years ago, many people were incredulous. I was inundated with cautionary tales from well-meaning friends and family. Even today, when I tell new acquaintances at a party that I’m a freelancer, their initial response is typically along the lines of, “Wow, how do you do that? Freelancing is hard to get into!”
Maybe you’ve had similar reactions from the people in your life.
If your friends and family are concerned because of your choice to pursue a freelance career, you’re not alone. When people care about you, they try to protect you from disappointment.
Consider the source.
The truth is, most people who assume that freelancing is hard to get into don’t actually have first-hand experience. They are peripherally aware of a cousin or friend-of-a-friend who tried to freelance and failed miserably.
So that’s the first red flag. When concerns like these come from second-hand knowledge, it just means people are speculating based on incomplete information. I get it, everyone has an opinion…but don’t base your life decisions on what Aunt Mary may or may not know about her neighbor’s son’s freelancing career.
Having said that, sometimes you find yourself talking with someone who tried freelancing themselves. They might say something like, “I tried to freelance and I just couldn’t make a living.” In these situations, I ask a follow-up question: “Which freelancers did you learn from?”
Here’s the thing: freelancing is hard—when you haven’t learned the tools to be successful.
If you think about it, every career path is hard to navigate if you don’t already know how to do it.
Most people are familiar with on-staff jobs, where you simply report to work for a company and collect a paycheck. Most people are not familiar with freelancing, where you can do work you love for a variety of clients on a schedule that works for you.
Freelancing isn’t hard, so much as an unknown quantity (although that trend is changing fast).
Do you think someone could climb the corporate ladder without first learning what it takes to succeed—and how to do it? Of course not! In a traditional career path, people learn from colleagues, bosses, and mentors.
So when I talk to people who are embarking on a freelance career, I encourage them to try learning from their successful peers.
Yes, freelancing is hard. However, it is absolutely no more difficult than any other career path. When you are good at what you do and you have a fantastic professional support network, you can achieve amazing things!
So, don’t worry if your friend tells you freelancing is too hard to get into. They are either basing their opinion on second-hand experience, or on the flawed premise that knowing how to succeed is an innate talent.
You can be a successful freelancer.
There is no doubt in my mind that if you put in the work, you will reap the rewards. The key is finding out what steps to take, being open to learning from others, and always looking for ways to grow.
Don’t let other people talk you out of pursuing the life and career you want for yourself. Keep working, and stay focused. One day soon, you’ll be that person at the party wowing your friends with stories from your freelancing career!
Your turn! Have you heard people tell you that “freelancing is hard to get into?” Who were they? How did you respond? Let us know in the comments below!