When freelancers are asked why they chose freelancing, many respond with sentiments such as ‘I desired to be my own boss,’ ‘I relished the autonomy it offers,’ or ‘I pursued freelancing for its flexibility.’ At the core of these responses is a common goal: breaking free from the constraints of traditional office cubicles.
However, while freelancers may have indeed sidestepped the conventional office environment, they can’t entirely evade the challenges that made their corporate tenure difficult. In fact, as a freelancer, you bear the responsibility of handling tasks that, in a corporate setting, would have been distributed among various departments.
Understanding this, it’s crucial to recognize that certain elements persist, whether you’re part of the corporate landscape or navigating the freelancing world. As such, it’s wise to be well-prepared for these consistent aspects of professional life.
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1. The Art of Financial Negotiation
In a conventional corporate setting, salaried employees receive a predetermined income along with periodic increments. At first glance, freelancers seem to operate quite differently. They possess the freedom to establish their own rates, and the liberty to adjust them at their discretion. However, upon closer inspection, it becomes apparent that the dynamics of financial negotiation are strikingly similar for both freelancers and corporate employees.
The primary distinction lies in the frequency and context of these negotiations. Traditional employees typically only negotiate their salary at the onset of a new job or during performance review cycles aimed at salary adjustments. Conversely, freelancers engage in these financial discussions more routinely, tailoring their rates to each client and project.
Unless a freelancer adheres to a rigid rate structure publicly displayed on their platform, they are likely to engage in more frequent financial negotiations compared to their full-time corporate counterparts. Thus, the arena of financial negotiation is not as disparate between freelancing and corporate employment as one might initially assume.
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2. The Cycle of Accountability
Freelancers often relish the notion that they are solely accountable to themselves. However, a more nuanced perspective reveals a different reality. As freelancers, we indeed answer to our clients. While we may not have someone monitoring our daily tasks or checking in on our progress routinely, when the deadline arrives, clients anticipate results.
In essence, the freelance professional remains beholden to the client’s expectations. Failure to meet a deadline is not a simple matter of offering an apology. Detailed explanations must be furnished, and in many instances, a client is entirely justified in reducing compensation due to delayed submissions.
While traditional employees are accountable to their supervisors, freelancers are responsible to their clients. The cycle of responsibility remains intact; only the individuals we are answerable to change. Thus, the realm of accountability is more alike in freelancing and corporate employment than initially perceived.
3. The Weight of Responsibility
In a corporate environment, the safety net of shared responsibility often mitigates the burden associated with project failures or missed deadlines. Within this structure, managers typically absorb the fallout from unsuccessful projects, irrespective of which team member may have contributed to the mishap.
Contrastingly, the world of freelancing functions differently. As a freelancer, you are the sole bearer of responsibility for any mishaps that occur during the course of your work. Regardless of the specifics of your role, when things do not go as planned, you alone shoulder the weight of accountability.
Thus, the sense of responsibility inherent in both freelancing and traditional employment is far more similar than one might initially believe, albeit distributed differently.
4. Navigating Professional Interactions
In a conventional corporate environment, employees regularly navigate a myriad of office politics and a diverse array of colleague personalities. From the subtly antagonistic team member to the self-proclaimed expert, from the spotlight seeker to the manager’s favored one – if you’ve spent time in an office setting, you’ve likely encountered them all.
Contrarily, as a freelancer, you may not be sharing a physical workspace with colleagues, but you are not exempt from interacting with a similarly eclectic mix of personalities. These encounters, however, manifest themselves in your client base. Engage in a conversation with a group of freelancers, and you’ll find that the discussion of client personalities invariably emerges.
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5. Embracing Extended Work Hours
One might be drawn to freelancing due to the allure of flexible work schedules or the prospect of reduced work hours. However, reality often reveals a different picture – as a freelancer, you might find yourself dedicating more time to work than you did in your full-time role.
While overtime is not uncommon in the corporate world, for freelancers, it’s practically an unwritten rule. They frequently find themselves burning the midnight oil or sacrificing weekends to meet pressing deadlines. Achieving success in the freelance realm often necessitates an investment of long, demanding hours.
6. Advancing in Professional Growth
Within the corporate landscape, promotions serve as a tangible acknowledgement of employees’ diligent efforts and unwavering commitment. Similarly, freelancers experience their own version of advancement, except they are the ones bestowing it upon themselves.
This self-promotion can take various forms, such as rewarding oneself with well-deserved breaks, elevating rates to reflect increased value, or embracing larger-scale clients. Each step signifies a milestone in their professional growth.
7. Seeking Greater Opportunities
Both corporate employees and freelancers are constantly on the lookout for their next significant advancement, whether it’s within their current company or elsewhere. This could include a new position, job, benefits, or work environment. Freelancers share this mindset as they continuously search for their next major client.
They are always pursuing larger and more lucrative opportunities to increase their earnings. Just as employees do not stay with one company for their entire career, freelancers do not rely on a single client. While it’s common for freelancers to have long-term clients, these relationships are not permanent. Ultimately, they will move on to other clients in their pursuit of growth and success.
So, what’s the difference?
With so many similarities, are we merely deceiving ourselves into thinking that we are better off as freelancers? Is transitioning from a full-time corporate job to a freelancing business just a change of scenery?
The answer is no.
There is a significant difference between a full-time corporate job and a freelance one: flexibility and control. In a full-time job, you lack flexibility. You cannot start work later if you wish to go to the gym in the morning, take a random afternoon off, or simply turn off your computer and leave work to pick up your kids in the middle of the day.
As a freelancer, among other things, you have control over your earnings, the clients you choose to work with, and your working days and hours. Best of all, you can raise your rates, let go of clients you no longer wish to work with, and find more, higher-paying clients. You have the freedom and control to make all these decisions while freelancing, and this is what makes it all worthwhile.
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