Multitasking and Juggling Hats
One major difference between working a job and working as a freelancer is that in the latter circumstance, you are pretty much on your own. If you are an employee of a corporation, then you have a purchasing department to buy supplies, a sales department to get new business, an accounting department to keep track of earnings and expenses, and so forth. But if you’re a freelancer? Pick any role or function, anything that needs to get done, and then look in the mirror—the guy or gal you see there is the one who is charged with doing it.
This means that even if you are a specialist rather than a generalist, any freelancer needs to have at least some basic breadth in the abilities needed to run a business. You can specialize in your area of expertise, but you need general business capabilities as well. You certainly don’t have to excel in each of these fields, but you must have fundamental competency in them (or be willing to spend mucho dinero hiring others to do these tasks for you).
In fact, the multitasking associated with freelancing even goes beyond just wearing many hats: it requires shuffling hats. That is to say: not only do you have to be able to do many different things, but you need to do them simultaneously, shifting between roles often many times per day. This is really an essential part of being self-employed, which is a big part of what freelancing is about.
Some people really like this aspect of being a freelancer. They enjoy the ability to switch among duties, including their “main” work, talking to clients, looking for new projects, following up with prospects, billing for projects completed, and so forth. In my experience, this seems to apply most to freelancers who have an aptitude and interest in management.
Most freelancers, however, don’t really like this aspect of their career choice, viewing it mainly as a distraction from what they really want to do. It can be especially difficult for those engaged in creative work, such as writing or design. As a writer myself, I can tell you from personal experience how annoying it is to finally beat writer’s block after a half-day of banging my head on the keyboard, only to be interrupted by a phone call, or an email from a client who has an urgent problem. But again, it’s part of the role, so I deal with it.
If you’re the sort of person who truly hates the idea of having to deal with distractions and interruptions, freelancing is probably not the right approach for you. You’re likely better off finding a full-time job specific to your niche, in a company that provides the support network and resources to let you concentrate solely on what you love doing. Just bear in mind that there are downsides to this as well, and even in a company there will be lots of people and problems vying for your attention.
If you really do like freelancing and just view the multitasking involved as a nuisance, though, don’t get too discouraged. While you do have to deal with things as they come up, you don’t have to let phone calls, clients and other distractions take over your life and completely drain your productivity. Later in the Guide we will look at methods to help you manage your freelancing business and ensure you have adequate time to get your main work done and still deal with all the other tasks along the way.
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Last Site Update: October 21, 2011
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