On Monday I wrote about my experience being a partner to a freelancer, and today my HB was awesome enough to answer a bunch of questions I had for him to find out more about what life as a freelancer is really like. Alright, here we go!
Me: “What made you want to become a freelancer?”
HB: “It was more or less a requirement of the career I chose and the location I lived in. There are very few non-freelance jobs in my [music] field.”
Me: “What are some of the pros of being self-employed?”
HB: “You dictate your own hours. This can be a good or bad thing, depending on your own time management skills. Within reason, I am pretty much solely responsible for my own career. Again, this can be good depending on your personality.
Limitless opportunities. Not having a paycheque may seem like a negative to most people, but on the other hand, it doesn’t put a cap on the income you can earn. There is a set limit on the lows. For example, making no money. But there is no limit to how high the highs can be. On a good month I can make more in less time than I ever would at any day-job that I’d be qualified for.
Also, the gratification of being your own boss. For me, it just feels really good to know that I am in charge of myself. It can be a lot of responsibility at times, but at the end of the day it’s usually really satisfying.”
Me: “What are some of the cons?”
HB: “You can dictate your own hours. A lot of what you do is self-directed, so you can end up spending many more hours than you intended, especially if you don’t properly estimate your budgets in regard to how much time things will take. You can end up with many extra non-billable hours to finish a task because you estimated it would take less and quoted based on the estimate.
Freelancing in my field can often times mean that the client dictates your schedule. If I’m in charge of the current project, I dictate my own hours, but if someone else is in charge (say, the producer), I am at the will of their schedule. This can mean working late nights, long days, and not taking days off sometimes.
Your personal schedule and business are also closely tied together. Since you are the captain of your ship, you need to be aware that all businesses go through different phases. You have to be prepared at times to put in many (many, many, MANY) more hours than you’d like in order to get your business through those growth periods.
This can be tricky, as it takes quite a while to develop the skills to manage your time properly, and at times it may feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day or week to do what needs to be done. This is one area I’ve definitely gotten better at but could still use a lot of work!
Lack of Benefits is a big con as well. One of the prices you pay for making your own hours (most of the time) and being in charge of your destiny is that you also have to take care of yourself physically. That means no one’s going to pick up the tab for your dentist visits, non-routine medical things, or even things like life insurance. Getting health insurance privately can definitely be costly.”
Me: “What are some of the things you’ve learned as a freelancer in regard to money and keeping your finances in check?”
HB: “Luckily, I was raised in a household that did not place a high importance on material things. My parents are quite frugal and passed a lot of money saving tips down to me.
I’ve also always been pretty good about saving my money. I generally try to have 2 to 3 months’ worth of living expense money squirreled away as an emergency fund for times when work dries up (that’s on top of general savings of course). I have been quite lucky (and working really hard) and haven’t really gone more than a few weeks without work in the six years I’ve been at it (knock on wood). However, I do know a lot of people my age in my field who often live week to week or even day to day at times. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to find work when needed, even if it’s not in the area I’d ideally like to be working in.
As a freelancer, it’s easier to budget savings by percentages, rather than dollar amounts as paycheques are almost never the same.”
Me: “What advice would you give to someone who wants to become self-employed?”
HB: “Be prepared to work really, really hard at times.
Don’t underestimate the value of building relationships and meaning it. In my field, that is the most important thing. If nobody likes you, they’re not going to hire you. You are your company.
Reputation is important. The customer is always right…within reason, or at least you can make them think you think they’re right. It only takes one person to start talking negatively about you online for other people’s perception of you to be tainted. Don’t give them a reason. Be nice and friendly with everyone.”
Thanks, HB, for answering all my questions and enlightening us all on your experience as a freelancer!