Every full-time freelancers in Singapore will hear surprising things said about them at some point of their career. They find it surprising because their working life is not what others perceived it to be. If you have thought about becoming a freelancer, you cannot assume what you know are facts.
Freelancers work shorter hours
Although freelancers work from home, they work for organisations. That means they still have to follow office hours to a certain extent to get work done. In fact, they work extended hours.
Career gurus will tell you to avoid bringing work home but a freelancer's briefcase is always at home. Working through weekends and on public holidays is common when deadlines are near.
At this point, you may think that freelancers work like a dog. Well, the same can be said for executives during peak office period. The difference is freelancers work doubly hard not because they are told to but they need to. After all more projects means a higher income.
Freelancing is not a job
Four years into my freelance writing and I had been asked by an ex-boss to help her on a project-basis. A relative even asked me to cover her job for a week after her operation!
The fact that they had even asked imply that there are people who do not see freelancing as one that requires full-time attention. Because freelancers work from home, outsiders tend to think that they have the free time for other engagements.
While it is true that the hours are flexible, freelancing is, however, not a semi-retirement job. It is more than a job - it is a self-run business. Whether it is admin, finance, marketing or sale, you have to learn to like them and do them well.
To be successful, your commitment and hard work are expected. So don't think that switching to freelancing is going to free up more personal time for yourself and your family; Freelancing is a 24/7 affair.
Freelancers have no bosses
When I first started freelancing, I thought my days of having a boss were over because I was working without supervision. As years passed, I realised that all the editors are technically my bosses.
Working with different clients is part and parcel of freelancing. Some of them can be as demanding as office bosses.
If managing one boss is already tough for you, imagine dealing with several bosses. The fact that they do not watch over your shoulder means that it is your responsibility to ensure that works are done on time.
Freelancers have earned enough
Because freelancers are perceived to work shorter hours, so it seems natural to think that they have made enough money to be leading relaxed lives now. But this is not the case for most freelancers. For the sake of passion, many have learnt to live within their means.
Today, the freelance market is very competitive. Freelancers not only have to work harder but also be creative. Until they have established their credentials and built a name for themselves, living comfortably on freelance income is wishful thinking.
If you are bad at managing your finances, freelancing will stress you out.
Freelancers take the easy way out
It is very tempting to just quit a sucky job and try freelancing, even more so if you have friends who are freelancers. But don't think that it is a breezy job without knowing the behind-the-scene stories.
I have friends who said that they envy my job when they called me during their office hours and I happened to be out shopping. What they didn't know is that I was working like mad before I could afford the time to shop.
People who become freelancers are akin to those who goes into full-time missionary or philanthropic work. They quit their day job because they have found a more purposeful job; escaping from problems at their workplace is the least reason.
Freelancers face a different set of problems that they have to deal with single-handedly. So if you are the type who see problems as obstacles than challenges, freelancing will not last you.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Anthony Koh has been a full-time freelance writer since 2007.