As is their wont, a thought struck me the other day. I know I’ve written articles on the ‘how’ of becoming a freelancer, along with discussing generic advantages and disadvantages – yet I haven’t yet explained why I became a freelancer.
So here goes. I hope my tale lives up to my advice!
I won’t sit here (no I’m not on a beach, sadly) filling your retinas with tales of unbridled artistic, philanthropic or altruistic desires that could only be quenched by joining the ‘gig economy’ (we really must come up with a British term for this world of ours). If I did, it would be a lie.
Grotesque I know – but my main driver for becoming a freelancer was money. Some may baulk at the thought, but there it is. In my last ‘permie’ role it became quite evident – quite quickly – that I could (should) stop being the one who authorised these large invoices, and become one of the payees instead.
I have no yarns to spread concerning hard luck; no back-story of conflict nor financial worries. I was well-paid and working for an international consultancy with some truly great people. And here’s the ‘but’ you can sense…I was working alongside, and authorising payments for freelance contractors. That niggling question ‘could I…’ was bubbling away.
We had enough money in our personal bank account set aside for ‘as yet unspecified home improvements’ and – with the blessing of my wife and two sons – we put these plans on hold.
I had always dreamed of running my own business – of being my own boss. This small cash reserve we had would enable us (me) to ‘dip my toes’ into this (as then) mystical and exciting world – and see if we ‘got a bite’ (I think those idioms work together).
Thankfully (depending on your point of view) I had acquired my first contract in less than a week of leaving my job! It doesn’t matter how many people reassure you that this would be the case – you don’t believe it until it actually happens for you.
I was a freelancer! A contractor! I had my own business! I was free! Free to choose the contracts I was interested in! Freedom to choose to worry about ‘being found out as a charlatan’. Free to worry about ‘what if they cancel the contract’. Free to worry about ‘what if I don’t get another contract at the end of this one’. Free to worry whether I’d get paid on time. Free to worry whether I had actually saved enough money for my tax bills.
You didn’t think I’d sell you a ‘plain sailing story’ did you? I now know that all of these worries were the norm – and no amount of reassurance will make the slightest bit of difference. Us freelancers just have to ‘run through the worry wall’. But run through it we do.
“Being a freelancer has given me so much more than an increased revenue stream. I know that now.”
I don’t get involved in protracted bids (other than my own); no staff meetings or secondary roles for me. I have the artistic freedom to walk away or say no. I’m not saying I could afford to keep on saying ‘no’ ad nauseum – I do have bills to pay. But it is my choice – and that is a powerful feeling I assure you.
That no one is shaping or influencing my career is wholly liberating. I will live and die (financially) by my own decisions; and until you experience this state of mind it is hard to quantify with words alone.
Moreover, freelancing was my step-up into the world of business and it led to the creation and continued growth of The Furious Engineer. Many freelancers refuse to acknowledge or accept the label ‘freelancer’; preferring instead to be referred to as the entrepreneurs that we all are. And rightly so.
Looking back, money can’t really have been my inspiration can it? Perhaps it was subconsciously the desire for professional, artistic and contractual freedom.
Who am I kidding – it was the cash! But the cash I needed to invest in establishing and growing my business. It’s still a work in progress of course – but I do hope you can come along for the ride.
What’s your story on ‘why you became a freelancer’? Do you have a deeper tale to tell? Why not let everyone know in the comments section below.
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My story is very similar. Yes I too hoped to make more money. And largely I have.
I have also gained the freedom, enjoyment and satisfaction of being in charge of my own destiny. I’ll also add that being self-employed has given me a much greater opportunity to be involved in the day-to-day rasing of my two lovely kids – priceless
Now, 18 years later, I believe I am largely unemployable. Long may it continue!
Great feedback, Helen – thank you. I do hope you mean in unemployable only in terms of being a ‘permie’! Great to hear of your success.