Working as a freelancer can sound like a total dream: You can work when you want, where you want, and take on projects you actually love to spend time and effort on. You're free from micromanaging bosses, office politics, and the general grind of the 9-to-5.
Freelancing is a beautiful thing... if you also like oppressive loneliness, not getting paid if you get sick, and not talking to humans for long stretches of time.
Any type of career comes with drawbacks and freelancing is no exception. If you want to hang your shingle and make a go of it working for yourself, more power to you. But first, familiarize yourself with the dark side of the freelance life.
Your expenses just got bigger and your income, a lot more unstable
You thought keeping a budget when you got a regular paycheck was tough? Try doing it while also chasing down clients who are 3 months late in sending you payment, juggling business expenses, and preparing for your annual slow period around the holidays.
Yeah, it's a lot to deal with. Maybe you wanted to freelance because your gross earnings could outpace your old wages. But now you're responsible for paying all your own expenses, including healthcare, office supplies (and space), and everything else you need to do your work.
Oh, and don't forget about taxes, which can easily eat into 33% of your freelance earnings.
Time off means not working, which means no money
One of the most glorious things about employment is also nonexistent if you want to freelance. There's no paid time off. You might be able to get away with sick days, vacay days, or even just unproductive work days in an office.
But when you freelance? Yeah, no. If you're not working, you're not generating money.
It doesn't matter if you're sick or just stressed out, stepping away from your work means potentially earning less. The only way to combat this for most freelancers is to cram in a bunch of work ahead of the time they want to take off -- or bring work with them on vacation.
You better save ('cause no one else is doing it for you)
Whether it's for emergencies (like you just lost your biggest client and with them, 3/4 of your income) or for one day when you'd like to not hustle 24/7 (also known as retirement), it's 100% on you to build a nest egg.
As a freelancer, you need to use your money in a lot of ways, including for expenses and reinvesting in your work or career. But you also need to save for big purchases, unexpected financial mishaps, and your future. There are no job benefits to take advantage of and there's no retirement match with that nice free money.
When freelancing, you take on responsibility for all of your work and all of your financial needs. It's empowering, but also slightly terrifying at the same time when you remember you'll likely need somewhere in the range of $1 to $3 million dollars to retire 30 years from now.
You forget how to interact with other humans
Freelancing can sound like an introvert's dream: you get to work from home, alone, undisturbed by asinine coworkers who constantly bother and interrupt you. But even for the most introverted among us, the loneliness that comes with flying solo can start to feel a little soul-crushing after a while.
When you realize you're on your 4th straight day of not stepping foot outside your home (or outside your sweatpants) and the only living being you've had a conversation with is your cat, things start to feel a little gloomy. As a freelancer, there's no built-in socialization that an office provides.
You either need to make an effort to cultivate your social life to make up for it, or invest in something like a coworking space so you don't forget how to engage with your fellow humans.
Freelancing can get dark, but ultimately, the light shines through
Freelancing isn't always beautiful, freeing, or glamorous. A lot of the time it's a hard slog that you go through alone. But the times you get to really enjoy it, through rewarding work and the fulfillment of controlling your own destiny, shine enough light on the dark side of the freelance life to make it worth all the effort.