Hey my dears,
today for something different.
First, I told you I prepared something to make up for my belated #writerswednesday post and secondly, I thought this idea was a good one.
As I talked to other creatives and also listened to the German podcast Creative Kraut* from a good friend of mine, this idea popped up in my mind and stayed there, so I thought it might be interesting for you to read a little bit about the life of a freelancer.
Why am I entitled to speak about these things? Well, mostly because I have been working as a freelancer for 6 years now, officially, woop woop.
Six years?! Yep, instead of searching for a part time student job, I decided to build up my freelance business beside my studies.
Sounds so cool, right? Haha, well, if I did my calculation right, there were many months in which working a part time student job would have been wayyyy more lucrative 😀
But, I learned a lot along the way and it brought me where I am today.
And since nowadays on all the platforms setting up your own business and leaving your corporate job and do what you love is so intensively and extensively promoted, I thought you might be interested in me sharing a part of my journey and thoughts upon it.
What do you think? Good idea or rather “hard liquor idea” (Schnapsidee is what we call it in German, don’t ask me why, probably because your ideas after consuming hard liquor might be quite, erm, weird?!)
So, let me know, if you’d like me to continue this series in the comments below or as usual on any other platform like Facebook or Instagram or even via email.
What I prepared for today is to do away with some of the myths and prejudices that are connected to the perception of freelance work.
I’ll post a statement, just like the ones I have heard or read in the eyes of my interlocutors, and then touch upon them.
Of course, as always, the answers derive from my own opinion and experience and are not to be generalised.
Little disclaimer: I write from the perspective and experience of a freelancer working and living in Germany. Of course, certain regulations and have-to’s might differ in your very own country. I would love to hear about freelance work in other countries, so please feel free to share your experience!
So, let’s start with the myths & prejudices:
1. Oh, wow, so you don’t have to work 9 to 5 and can schedule your work as you please!
Well, it depends on the job you got booked for.
If you’re booked for a coaching session on a regular basis or giving courses, of course you have to show up when it’s supposed to take place, huh?
But sure, preparing and the work afterwards you could do when your time allows, as long as you are prepared for the next session.
If it’s a job with a deadline but no schedule in between, it might seem as if you could sleep in and paint your nails all day and then just work one hour here and one hour there.
But let’s assume you have more than one project running at the same time (which by the way is not unusual, as it has something to do with money, too, but I’ll come to that in a minute) and then you have to be an effing master of time management to not lose track and guess what, my dears, often you end up working late and you don’t have a weekend and due to that it might also happen that you forget which day it is at all.
2. THAT is your rate per hour?! You’re earning a fortune!!
Phew, okay, breathe in, breathe out.
Yes, my hourly rate is higher than what you earn in your regular job if you take your monthly income and divide it by your working days and then hours.
BUT: I don’t have a boss that pays a certain percentage or even half of my health insurance. I am my boss. Means I pay 100%.
Depending on the field you work in, you might be obliged to take a private insurance, as is often the case for freelancers in Germany.
Little note: we make a difference between freier Mitarbeiter and Freiberufler, which could be translated as free employee and freelancer, so the latter is mostly by definition a lawyer, architect or – like me – someone working in a creative field, like an author for example.
And private insurance is never cheap.
Furthermore, I don’t have paid vacation. Every day I don’t go to work is a day I don’t earn money.
I repeat: Every day that I don’t go to work is a day that I don’t earn money.
Let that sink in for a moment.
And yes, that means for many freelancers that they go to work although they are ill as a dog, because they simply can’t afford to be sick.
Additionally, I run on projects. Sometimes a project contract is as long as one year, sometimes it’s some months and sometimes it’s a short term thing, like editing a book within a week.
That my friends, means that I have to earn as much as possible in a short time span because in most cases, if you’re not lucky, you don’t have a following project already signed, so it might happen that you have to live on your savings for months or longer. (Note: Your fix costs are still gonna be booked from your bank account, because they don’t give an eff whether you have income or not)
That, connected to what I said before, leads to many freelancers taking nearly every option for a job, even many short term ones, to ensure they have enough savings if the next project start is delayed.
And that in turn makes many freelancers end up having no weekend at all but working their butts off in order to gain a feeling of pseudo-security.
And now, my dears, imagine that nearly 80% (number is estimated, no proof) of the people interested in your services try to press your prices down and negotiate with you.
Try not to look desperate and to keep some self-confidence and self-worth remaining.
3. It’s really cool, you can choose your projects and your work is so diverse, it must be exciting!
Mh, yes and no.
Yes, it’s true, the work can be very diverse as you might be editing a cook book for one client, translate a website for a coach, go on trade fairs as a translator for cosmetics and support the relaunch of the virtual spaces of a shoe company.
Sure, it’s diverse. And that’s an absolute lovable trait to freelance work, to my mind.
But it also means, if all or some of the projects are running in parallel, that your brain needs to work quickly and to stay flexible enough to jump through three different topics within 12 hours and still deliver the best work it can. Or within a week you might have to change the writing style, switch your brain from one language to the other and stick to appointments and schedules.
So, yes, it is exciting and you get many insights into different fields of work and you can learn amazingly much!
(How many things I learned from editing texts about topics that voluntarily I would never have dived into as deep. And then suddenly you find yourself on a party talking about digitalisation, smart homes, finances and medicine, just because your brain remembered the pages you edited. haha)
So, yes, it is exciting, but it can also be very exhausting.
And on some days you just wish you had “a normal life”, come home at the same time of the day and then be free to do the things that need to be done (grocery shopping, household stuff) – because guess what, besides all the project and topic hopping, that needs to be done, too in a freelancer’s life – and then chill with a good book or your favourite movie.
But it would be a lie if I claimed that it’s not diverse or not exciting. Of course, not every project is a wow one, and even in projects you love there are days where you just don’t feel it.
But that’s definitely a trait of freelance work that I consider exciting.
So, so much for the myths.
Before people start arguing now, let me take a stand for myself:
1. I don’t mean to say that freelance work is shit because you don’t get paid vacay or because you have to work a lot and have to deal with a certain insecurity when it comes to projects. I don’t mean to complain about that, either, cause you could say “Well, that’s what you chose. Nobody forced you. You can still go and search for a regular job. It was your decision.” and I wouldn’t have any counter argument against that.
2. Neither do I mean to belittle regular jobs and praise freelance work or claim that freelance work is more stressful than a regular job. Heck, no! A friend of mine is a nurse and I know how much stress that means, and yes it’s a regular job including paid vacation and health insurance, etc., and I truly admire her and her colleagues for doing what they do. Just like I admire everyone getting up in the morning, whatever they work and giving it their best.
3. My main aim is to create awareness and to do away with some of the commonly spread misconceptions as I’d call them about freelance work. Sheesh, when you look onto social media it seems like everybody’s telling you to throw your regular job into a trash bin and follow your dream and do what you love.
What I’m aiming to say is: Please consider some points of freelance work before you throw anything into the bin, okay?
Just because you’re working as a freelancer and have different project options in diverse fields doesn’t mean that you live your dream, because as stated before, sometimes you just have to take the next best offer to pay the bills, you know.
I don’t mean to put any of the jobs, be it regular or freelance, on a pedestal and talk the other one down.
Understanding in both directions is what I’d like to create.
Let me know what you think.
Are you a freelancer and loving it?
Do you have a regular job and are playing with the idea to step into the freelance life? (if so, I hope my post didn’t make you hate the idea, that wasn’t my intention. If that’s what you wanna do, do it, I just say, inform yourself and do your research and do not dreamily trip into something and when you wake up you think “what have I done?!”)
Have you experienced both sides, and if so, which one do you prefer and why?
Let me know in the comments below.
So long, my dears