The reality of working freelance and making money
Most people have a vision of freelancers, working from elaborately cool warehouse conversion offices, with steel and glass furniture and high tech stuff littering the surface of their modern work desk. Even other creative people have that vision. Some freelancers do work that way, but that’s really just a fantasy version of the real-life creative pro lifestyle. The other common assumption is that if you’re freelance, that’s either code-speak for “unemployed”, or you’re raking it in.
The reality is somewhere in the middle.
Most often, freelancers are using the same equipment they’ve had for 7 years, pushing it until it fails. They work in their living room, or a bedroom in which they’ve sacrificed form for function as a make-shift home office. Some (many) work from the dining room table. They make real sacrifices and work hard to get the job done, hoping the risk of leaving a steady paycheck behind will pay off.
Freelancing and making money is a tough balance to keep. Some clients will pay you well, but not need you often, while others will bombard you with work they can’t afford, hoping you need the work enough to take the low rate required to meet their budget. Other clients may not pay you at all (every freelancer has experienced this problem). The best approach to keeping this balance is to be clear about the work you’re willing to do, the rates you charge and how long things will take you. It’s okay to say no to something that won’t pay you well – I know you’ll be tempted, especially when things are tight, but if you say no, I promise your world will not come to an end.
Don’t – I repeat DON’T – be known as the cheap go-to freelancer who’ll do anything, unless you want to be paid little and work 16 hour days. Assuming, of course you have that much work. Bottom line, be clear, be honest and be firm. Don’t be a dick, but don’t get taken advantage of either. You get into a situation you’re not sure about, ask another freelancer for an opinion. Don’t know any, ask me. Freelance is a tough gig, and requires a thick skin, but if you can find the balance, it’s worth it.