If you’re thinking about switching to a full-time freelance or consulting career, you’ve probably run this idea past at least a few trusted co-workers, friends, or family members to get their thoughts.
“Do I seem like the kind of person who could run her own business?”
“Wouldn’t it be amazing to be in control of the work I do, the rates I charge, and when and where I work?”
“I don’t know, I’m really nervous… do you think I should do it?”
These are all great questions to be asking, and it’s natural to want the opinions of those who know you best when you’re considering such a drastic career change.
But, especially if you’re asking people who have never freelanced full-time, or at all, you’re most likely going to get some responses that start with “I’m sure you could, but…” or “Have you considered…” or “But what if…”
You’ll face a lot of skepticism, right off the bat. And what’s most dangerous about hearing this negative feedback from others is that you’ll adopt their skepticism, letting it sow the seeds of doubt that were already buried in your mind.
If you don’t personally know anyone who has made a successful career out of freelancing, it’s easy to chalk it up to a few people on the internet with blogs about it (oh, hi 👋 ) and to convince yourself that you’re just not one of those people and probably couldn’t be. In fact, this might even be one of the reasons someone else gave you for not trying it!
Whether it’s a friend, family member, or the voice in your own head, here are 7 freelancing myths to look out for. Don’t let these be the reason you don’t give freelancing a shot.
7 Myths That Should NOT Keep You From Freelancing Full-Time
1. “You can only freelance if you’re a web designer or developer.”
It’s true that these are the most common freelance roles -- design and development skills have long been in high demand. Many companies have realized that for short-term design needs, it’s cheaper and more efficient to hire a freelance designer to turn around a specific project quickly, rather than bringing on a salaried, full-time employee. The same applies to short-term development needs - say, building a new website or a web app - it’s more economical to outsource this work to a contractor than bring on a full-time developer at market rate.
But if you’re not a designer or developer, fear not -- the reality is -- if you have a valuable skill to offer to businesses or individuals, you can freelance.
Note: Of course, some skills will be in higher demand than others, and you’ll have to weigh that into your decision of whether or not to freelance full-time. If your service is only useful to a select few businesses, it may be more sensical to work full-time for one of them, since you won’t have a large market to go after otherwise.
Think about what services you could offer as a freelancer. Are you a digital marketer? Great! There are tons of companies who need marketing help, and many are starting to realize the benefits of hiring smart, efficient freelancers over having to search for, interview, train, and pay a full-time employee.
There’s a whole variety of types of freelancers out there who are making it work. What’s stopping you from being one of them?
2. “If you switch to freelancing, it’ll be really hard to get another full-time job later on.”
Ironically, the first time I heard this one, it was from a VP of Marketing who was trying to hire me for a full-time role on his team. That’s right -- he was simultaneously telling me that being a consultant will make me less hireable, and offering me a job. (This is why you should take all career advice with a grain of salt.)
Now, I will say this: if your goal is to climb the corporate ladder and become a manager or a VP or - wow! a CEO! - some day, freelancing may not be the best choice for your career. Good for you! Go after what matters to you.
If, however, your priority is making enough income to support yourself and having the flexibility to live your life and spend your time as you choose, then the freelance route will be a better fit.
However, that does not mean it’s irreversible.
I was recently coaching a friend through her decision to quit her job and give freelancing a try. She was nervous about the switch and was worried that she wouldn’t be able to make freelancing work and would want to get another full-time job. I told her, “No problem! There are always companies looking to hire full-time, and I have no doubt you’d be able to find a position if that’s what you wanted. You can do this any time. But if you jump into another full-time job, you’re likely committing to it for at least a year or two, and that means you’re ruling out giving freelancing a try until then.”
If you’re thinking about giving freelancing a shot, do this first. You’re not losing any of the skills you have now, and you can do it for however long you want. There will always be full-time jobs that will eagerly accept a few years of your commitment.
3. “You’re not going to make enough money.”
This is a common concern people have with freelancing, because what they really mean by this is:
4. “You’re not going to have steady income.”
Ah, yes. This one is much more logical, because it’s true. There is a difference, however, between not having steady income, and not having enough income.
For many, the benefit of a full-time job is the consistency of their paychecks. They know exactly how much will be deposited into their bank accounts, and exactly when.
Note: If you are in a financial position where you are reliant upon a consistent paycheck, now may not be the right time to try freelancing full-time.
With freelancing, that stability and consistency is not guaranteed. But the benefit is that you control your own pricing. If you’re strategic about how you price your projects, deliver high-quality work, and learn how to justify high rates to your clients, you’ll put yourself in a position to hit your income goals, and potentially even get to a point where you’re earning more than you were in your full-time job. The beauty of freelancing is there is no upper limit on how much you can earn.
5. “It takes a lot of self-discipline and organization.”
Sure… and a full-time job doesn’t?
It’s true that with running your own business comes certain responsibilities that you don’t have in a full-time job. You no longer have an employer to withhold your taxes, a boss to schedule your meetings, or a health insurance plan or 401k chosen for you.
But typically what people mean when they say that freelancing takes a lot of self-discipline is, “if no one is forcing you to work, why would you possibly be motivated to get anything done?”
Well, folks, let’s not forget that -- assuming you need to be earning an income -- you’ll have some motivation to get work done and follow through on your contracts. It’s pretty much the same reason you have motivation to get out of bed and go into the office as an employee. Just minus the commute, the restriction to a specific location, and, uh, all that good stuff.
6. “Freelancing isn’t a real job.”
You’re most likely to hear this one from parents, or members of an older generation, who have a strong mental model of what constitutes a “real job.” These folks did not have nearly as much opportunity or flexibility in their means of earning an income as we do now, living in the digital age, where more and more companies are choosing to take on remote employees, freelancers, and consultants.
As a freelancer, you’re providing services in exchange for income. That’s about as “real” as it needs to get!
When I told my parents that I was thinking about freelancing for a while, they were extremely nervous about it. My mom has been working at the same company for over 30 years. My dad commutes two hours each way every day to a job where he’s worked for the majority of the past decade. Entering into contracts that were weeks or months long, instead of years? Working from anywhere I want? Having to negotiate rates every time I took on a new client? The idea seemed so foreign to them.
Yet, we’re still living in an age where the majority of middle-class Americans go through a bang-your-head-against-a-wall monotonous daily routine, commuting through morning traffic, sitting at a desk or in meetings for 8 hours a day or more, commuting through evening traffic, and going to bed early enough to repeat again the next day. And how many of them are actually happy? How many are spending time with people they love, or on things they enjoy?
We now have the opportunity to break out of this routine, to choose not to let someone else dictate where and how we spend our every hour, to embrace the ability to support ourselves with an income made on our own terms.
So if you hear “Freelancing isn’t a real job,” to this I say: “It’s way, way better.”
7. “You’ve never done it before and you don’t have anyone to help you.”
So glad you asked! I will help you.
When I first started freelancing, I didn’t know anyone who had done it before. I didn’t have anyone to answer my questions, so I did a lot of Google searching and found that there aren’t a lot of straightforward, helpful resources out there for people looking to get started with freelancing.
My main motivation for starting this blog was to help people who are excited about the idea of freelancing to make the leap and give it a try, and to help existing freelancers scale their businesses even further. I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about landing your first contract, red flags to look out for in a prospective client, how to structure your pricing most effectively, and more.
I had to do a lot of guessing when I got started. You won’t have to. This blog is designed to help you skip the initial trial-and-error phase of freelancing so you can ramp up your projects and grow your income quickly, right from the start.