Whenever people talking about going freelance, their eyes light up with great delight. The thought of sleeping until 13:00, working in your knickers and high heels even if you’re a bloke and not having a boss to answer to seems to set off a switch in people’s minds which sends them completely barking. Mad as a bag of snakes. The notion of freelancing, in its essence, is quaint, if you can pull it off, it’s delightful. When you tell somebody, hell no, you shouldn’t become a freelancer, their eyes widen, their lips quiver and they scream a panicked: WHY NOT so loudly it feels like somebody has pierced your ear drum with a knitting needle. Why not become a freelancer? I’ll bloody tell you why not.
Getting money out of people can be like getting blood from a stone
Some clients are great. They pay you on time and they make sure you manage to keep your landlord off your back and your dogs from eating your leg. These are the clients we love, we cherish them and we make sure you never piss them off, ever. Other clients, though, other clients are sent from the the seventh circle of hell, the same place they send banks trying to pawn off a 60k overdraft to somebody who has eaten dried noodles on white bread for the last two weeks, because they’re broke and because they really couldn’t give a toss. You email. You call. You email again. You get your friend to call pretending to be a lawyer. You call again. You cry while flushing your head down the toilet. When is payment coming, you say. Thursday, they say. You sigh of relief. Not this Thursday, just a Thursday, they say. You cry some more while running the cold water tap over your head because they cut off your heating, but at least the coldness numbs the pain. If you do not have a reasonable fallback and you aren’t much good at budgeting, don’t become a freelancer.
No time off – ever
In the post about five reasons you should be a freelancer, I said you have more time for yourself. That’s true, yes, but with great freedom comes great responsibility. The responsibility of when you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Thus, time off is few and far between when you’re starting out. You have to take whatever gigs you can get, even if it means working for 10 days straight all while having an IV stuck in your hand in a strange country. The saying of “time is money” is very true for freelancers. If you want to take time off you have to make sure you work extra hard to make up some money that you might lose. Sure, you might get the odd day off here and there but consecutive days off can be few an far between.
Tax is not your friend
Nobody likes the tax man. Nobody has ever met him, but if you did, he’d probably be very short, very orange from all the self tan he uses and he’ll probably walk on stilts carrying a sledgehammer so that he can reach your head and bash it in. He’s unpleasant, thus, obviously his ways and means are unpleasant too. The laws are different in every country, but in South Africa, unless you’ve got a CC set up or unless you have a tax directive in place, you get dragged through nettles and covered in salt when it comes to paying tax. Clients take off a 25% chunk whenever you do a gig. It sounds small, but that’s 1/4 of your pay. How would you feel if you bought biltong from the shop and you got told you had to do away with a quarter of it? Pretty awful, that’s how. You can claim some of it back when you do your returns, but if you are just starting out and just finding your feet, that 25% can really burn. Like nettles.
People are assholes
One of the reasons people become freelancers is because they think they don’t have to deal with other people. People are assholes, that’s just the way people are. You shouldn’t be surprised that they are assholes, but you should be aware of it. And becoming a freelancer does not eliminate having to deal with assholes. In fact, there is most likely an equation that proves the asshole dealing ratio increases exponentially when you become a freelancer. Everything is free game when you’re freelancing and if you’re not bashing down the doors of editors, begging to reply to your (what you think) quirky email enticing them to hire you for a gig, you are fighting of hounds going behind your back and trying to steal your work. Vultures to a carcass, such is the way of life when somebody gets a sniff that a publication might be looking for writers. Then there are the editors, some are great, some never bother to respond and some completely change what you write. Pitching to editors is like shooting fish in a barrel. Only, the barrel is the whole entire earth’s ocean and your spear is a threading needle. Then there are those who want you to work for free on the premise of exposure. Have you taken exposure to the grocery store and tried to pay for your stuff? Try it. Doesn’t work. Free tip. But those are assholes spurred on by other assholes and that’s a post for another day…