The hidden challenges of freelancing and how to overcome them
Yes, there are many challenges of freelancing. I’ve now been in the workplace for a couple of decades, starting my career in radio, around age 21. I have worked in many industries that you could call “a boy’s club” – the media in Australia is well known for being misogynistic and sexist.
The gender pay gap
Women have never had it all that easy in the workplace. Even now, while we may have a veneer of equality and representation in the workplace, the world of work is still in many ways a boy’s club. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the gender pay gap (which incidentally many people deny exists!). As Psychology Today says, “Choice and discrimination are not mutually exclusive…Women earn less than men even when they work the same number of hours, a gap that exists across every level of educational attainment.”
We won’t find any employers openly advertising the fact that there’s a disparity between men and women in their workplace, yet economists from the World Economic Forum estimate that the gender pay gap could take over 200 years to completely close.
Do women get a “fair go” at work?
There are also still workplace where a culture that condones misogyny and the objectification of women is normalised and as long as these cultures persist, the world of work will never be the domain of true equality. In the face of this, it’s not at all surprising that many women (and men!) would choose to eschew the world of work that’s locked into a particular location or workplace, to make their own living as freelancers.
For skilled, hardworking and disciplined women, a freelance career allows them to sidestep the inherent adversities of the workplace and use her skills, personality and work ethic to carve a new career for herself on her own terms.
Freelancing can be great for families
Childbirth is a significant moment in any person’s life; whether they are male or female. I had a baby just 7 months ago and I was back to doing freelancing work when my daughter was just 5 weeks old. When you have a baby, your perception has been altered irrevocably by the experience of childbirth and your priorities have been realigned. Freelancing work (as well as working 2 days a week in my Content Strategist role for a corporate) has kept me sane, and allows me the flexibility I need.
Do freelancers choose their own hours?
The world of freelancing can be extremely liberating; yet there are significant challenges to overcome. There’s tremendous freedom in being able to choose your own hours, answer only to yourself (and your clients, of course) and spend more of your time doing the things you love and that bring you joy, challenge and fulfillment.
But being a freelancer has its own inherent pitfalls. Obviously job security is a thing of the past, as are holiday pay, sick pay and any notion of knowing for sure what your income will be from one week to the next. Even when things are going well and you’re enjoying a steady influx of work this can lull you into a false sense of security. If you’re not careful, a fecund period can flow abruptly into a barren period where work is hard to come by. Make sure you plan for this.
How to be more productive as a freelancer
Then, of course, there’s the issue of productivity. As much as most of us hate having a boss standing over us as we work, it’s nonetheless an effective way of ensuring that we use our time productively. Left to our own devices, it takes colossal discipline and restraint to ensure that every moment of our time is well spent so that we don’t find ourselves working long into the night while our kids and partners wonder where we’ve gotten to.
So, now that we’ve established some of the ways in which freelancing is a double edged sword, it’s worth remembering that some people might say that women are the best people to wield it. However, people are increasingly eschewing the titles of “man” and “woman” – wanting to be seen as something else. Here some tips which will hopefully help you to stay productive, stay in work, stay happy and motivated and maintain your sanity while working as a freelancer.
Downtime is your weapon
Don’t be fooled into thinking that downtime is anathema to your freelancing career. In fact, downtime should be properly harnessed to make it your weapon in the battle for productivity. The simple fact is that staring at a blank screen for minutes on end, deleting aborted sentence after aborted sentence and feeling the tension mount until your fingers are jabbing into your keyboard with such vigour that an RSI is just around the corner isn’t going to help anybody. Least of all you, when it comes to challenges of freelancing.
When the creative well runs dry, allow yourself a half hour break. Go for a walk and spend some time amidst trees, grass and plants. That’s not only a great way to relieve stress but proximity to nature has been proven to aid productivity. Not into the whole outdoor thing, snuggle by the fire and enjoy a chapter of a good book.
Check out websites online to see a selection of freestanding fires that will bring restfulness and relaxation. Not a big reader? How about a few minutes of simple meditation? However you choose to relax your mind, make sure you don’t come back to your keyboard until you’re ready to leap back into your work with renewed vigour and purpose.
Stay on top of tax
If you’re used to having your tax taken out of your salary on a Pay As You Earn basis, you may not be accustomed to handling your own tax affairs. Be wary, as many nascent freelancers underestimate their tax obligations and find themselves in deep trouble when the time comes to pay up. Work with a professional to ensure that your tax affairs are in order all year round and that you’re up to date with any legislative changes that may benefit you. Some challenges of freelancing might come as a surprise.
Set working hours (and stick to them)
When your deadlines are looming, it’s oh-so tempting to sacrifice your free time to your work. But remember, hour after hour spent at your desk may not be the surest path to productivity. If you labour on your work day and night, the lack of rest, food and drink are bound to colour your perception (and, inevitably, your efficacy).
You may well return to your desk the next morning to find that the last 4 hours you spent on your work produced nothing but garbage that needs to be jettisoned anyway and you lost valuable hours that could have been spend cuddling with your SO and / or kids. That’s why it’s vital to work set hours (ideally no more than 10 working hours a day) and stick to them.
Finally… Remember to eat and drink
Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? But it can be a hard rule to stick to when you’re in the zone. Ensuring that you stay hydrated and well fed will ensure that you’re able to maintain concentration and cognitive function so that your work is of the highest quality. Go hungry or thirsty and your work will inevitably suffer. The challenges of freelancing can be overcome with a bit of proper nutrition!
The challenges of freelancing can be overcome
There are now so may ways to work as a freelancer and basically any skills you have can be beneficial to your business. Forbes even predicted that the global workforce could be up to 50% freelancers within a few short years.
“If freelancing continues to grow at its current rate, the majority of U.S. workers will be freelancing by 2027, according to projections in the Freelancing in America Survey, released today by the Freelancers Union and the giant freelance platform Upwork,” according to Forbes. “The survey found that 50.9% of the U.S. population will be freelancing in 10 years if a current uptick in freelancing continues at its current pace.”