Freelancing for a living

The life of a professional freelancer is not without its drawbacks, but on average I know that I have landed on my feet with this one.

I get to work the hours I want to, take time off when I want to and broadly speaking I get to pick the work I am interested in (within reason, sometimes the bills just have to get paid). Not insignificantly, I get to keep more of the cash I earn because the tax laws are more favourable to those who are self-employed in Ireland.

I get to talk to new and interesting people pretty much every day and I also get to take advantage of some major perks – I get consumer electronics devices for free to keep or on extended loan for review purposes – I have four brand new cell phones on my desk as I type this – and I also get to travel for free when writing about travel. I’ve done more travel at the age of 30 than most people will ever do, probably several times over. I’ve even had to replace my passport because it ran out of pages to get stamped.

Sounds good doesn’t it? Bet you’re thinking about a career change about now, aren’t you? Well, I won’t lie – it beats the hell out of most people’s jobs. However, in case it seems that this blog entry is purely intended to annoy you the reader, here are some of the drawbacks.

I have to motivate myself, because there’s nobody to stand over me – I don’t work I don’t get paid. There’s no sick leave or holiday pay to be had. I’m heading off to the Far East next week for two weeks – which I’m paying for myself, in case that’s in doubt – and not only do I not get any paid holidays, I have to work twice as hard in advance of going to make sure the mortgage gets paid while I am away. (That’s partly why the blog has been a bit quiet lately.)

I have no job security in the sense that any one of the companies I work for can decide they no longer need my services and drop me without notice. (Although, in fairness, that also works the other way – I can stop working for any company whenever I like.) I can also be messed around by companies that ‘forget’ to pay for six months and have no real job security.

It can be lonely – particularly when I’m very busy with lots of deadlines to hit, I can sometimes be working 10 or 12 hours a day for days on end including weekends and because I work from home I can go days without actually leaving the house. This is not good, so I have to make time even when I can’t really afford it to get out and meet people and do stuff. Mental health is a valuable commodity.

Speaking of health, if I break a hand or am otherwise incapacitated in an accident, I don’t get paid. I have insurance but frankly it wouldn’t last long. It’s very hard to earn more money than I’m already earning, because there is a fixed word rate per job for freelancers, so it’s entirely conceivable that in 20 years time I could be still doing exactly the same job and earning the same rate.

Experienced and valued freelancers can commend slightly higher rates than newbies but negotiating is not easy. Freelance rates increase slightly slower than grass grows – they certainly don’t stay in line with inflation. I get a premium rate from a few publications, but certainly, nobody has ever heard of a millionaire journalist.

Finally, I have the grief of having to do my own invoicing, tax and VAT – it’s a lot of paperwork and can be a major pain in the ass. Despite all that, I think it’s a great job – so by all means if you think it’s for you, have a go.

1 Comment
  1. I like the freelance ruote alright. After almost ten years working in IT I am finally at the stage where I can turn down jobs because they just don’t pay a realistc amount of money for the services provided. Plus, as a musician, freelance work suits me better as I know when my three month contract is up that I have some time off to work on tunes, catch up on reading and (sometime in late 2007) play GTAIV.

    J

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