Freelancing can be an empowering choice. The opportunity to take charge of your time, do the work you love, and be “your own boss” (we don’t like this one, but more on that later…), is full of promise, but it can be a difficult switch. When the time comes to make a move from a full-time career, it’s easy to get cold feet if you don’t know what to expect. That’s why it’s important to spot the misconceptions and myths early on.
Believe us when we say there is a lot of misinformation out there about what it means to be a freelancer. The working world is changing, and with more businesses looking to hire independent talent than ever before, the freelancing route is exploding in popularity. As your portfolio career champions, we’d like to unpack some of the more common myths to see if they hold any water. Let’s begin, shall we?
Myth 1: Freelancing is lonely.
This statement couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, freelancers are more likely to have a healthier work/life balance than their salaried counterparts because they can easily structure their days around what’s best for them and those close to them. Flexibility is essential to having a sense of control over your time, a valuable indicator of satisfaction. A staggering 92% of respondents in one study stated that flexibility in their work does, or could, make them a happier person. Make no mistake, freelancing is difficult, and has its fair share of stresses, but it can be worth your effort with the right intent and, of course, the right people in your circle. In my operation, for instance, I work with an accountant, financial planner, nutritionist, personal trainer, and therapist, which frees up my time to focus on work and learning (and other projects I enjoy like podcasting), and also makes me feel like I have a team.
As far as a professional community goes, freelancers have access to more networking resources and flexibility than any other type of worker. These include coworking spaces (once they open), an active freelance community, and information in every form imaginable. It needs a bit more effort than having a network handed to you, but you have more choice and autonomy.
If it’s a structured professional network that you’re after, you could join communities like The Portfolio Collective, network with peers on LinkedIn, and use the range of digital technologies at your disposal to find your tribe. Just get stuck in, and you will find out that there are several others just like you, eager to build valuable, meaningful relationships.
Myth 2: Freelancing is unstable.
Now, there’s some logic in this statement, but it’s all about framing. Especially early on, it’s difficult to forget about the comfort of a regular pay cheque, but just because it’s uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s wrong. In today’s dynamic, digital market, stability is an illusion anyway. Adaptability is the real asset. You see, the future of work is a portfolio career. Companies are looking for people to perform specific tasks whilst offloading the fixed cost of permanent staff, while individuals choose variety over stagnation and the insecurity of having only one permanent job that you are 100% reliant upon. It’s not a matter of if, but when and how – so all the more reason to get ahead of the game.
Once you establish your value as a portfolio professional and build your brand, you own your presence. That ownership will give you the confidence to take more significant risks and back yourself, even when you think the chips are down.
Myth 3: Freelancing doesn’t pay well.
This assumption is simply untrue. Yes, some freelance gigs don’t come with a high pay cheque – especially if you have undifferentiated skills. However, you can establish and increase your value through intelligent thinking and the right frameworks. True, the market is crowded, but once you understand how you can stand out, it only gets easier.
Building a portfolio career is hard, but the rewards are just as good. With enough diligence and optimism, you can develop a solid client base that offers you meaningful work at the rate you deserve. You won’t be speaking to clients with a big brand name behind you, but every conversation you have will build your own. Also, all your efforts go into making your dream, not selling your time to build someone else’s. Your portfolio career can take a lot of hard work at the outset, but it’s only a matter of time before you build momentum and become unstoppable!
Myth 4: Freelancing isn’t a long-term option.
The days of a linear career are behind us. In a world marked by uncertainty, embracing change is the best thing you can do for your professional journey. The last two years have shown us the importance of resilience and adaptability, and taking charge of your professional development is a great way to build both.
It helps to think about your move as what you need now. If you fully commit to the idea, who knows where it could go? You might freelance today and eventually shift into consulting startups, taking on NED roles, and even starting your own company. After all, with the experience of managing your own marketing, finance, operations, learning, and delivery, who better than a portfolio professional to build and run a company?
Myth 5: Freelancers have no security.
There are many ways to protect your freelance work, from negotiating contracts that include non-compete clauses and conflict resolution mechanisms, to freelancing with platforms like Upwork or Fiverr. You can also build security by monetising your knowledge and skills in diverse ways including consulting fees, success fees, writing books/ newsletters, earning equity from clients, paid speeches, NED roles, or even running online workshops. There are so many ways to make freelancing work for your lifestyle. You can learn how to monetise each of those on our Catapult course.
Myth 6: I don’t know enough to be my own boss.
When you first start as a freelancer, it’s easy to believe that you need to know everything, but that’s not true. Would you have Isaac Newton play on your softball team? Was Mark Twain any good at math? In a hyper-connected world, your strength lies in finding what you’re good at and what you need help with before looking for people and tools who can fill the gaps. Keep looking for mentoring opportunities and always be keen to learn. That’s the only way to stay ahead. Try, however, to manage your expectations, because they can be a source of stress.
Remind yourself that no one can be good at all things. To stave off overwhelming yourself, build a team or a personal board of directors, and always delegate tasks to the people best for the job. I speak with trusted peers in the communication and writing game (and my clients) to get frequent feedback on my growth, usefulness, and relevance. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is the real superpower because that’s how you get better. And forget about bosses. When done right, freelancing is about great relationships, meaningful work, and a life you deserve.
Are you looking to freelance? Tell us more in the comments!
If you’re considering a transition to a portfolio career, tell us about your questions, reservations, or ideas in the comments below. Or, even better, why not come along to one of our networking events? Our community of portfolio professionals is always looking to share experiences and learning, so join the conversation!
Think this sounds like the right path for you? Come along to our monthly Get started event for new members to find out what a portfolio career could look like and how The Portfolio Collective can help you take those first steps towards professional success – and don’t forget to connect with our community!