You’re the Boss, But You Really Aren’t
Of all of the emotional motivations for becoming a freelancer, the desire for independence is perhaps the strongest. Many people hate their jobs, and even those who like them often dream of being able to be in charge, rather than having to listen to someone else tell them what to do. Those who promote freelancing play off of this natural craving, enticing professionals with promises of employment liberty, along with the satisfyingly spiteful chance to “tell your boss to take his job and shove it”. I touched upon this in my overview of the pros and cons of online freelancing.
All that would be wonderful, if it were actually true that you are your own boss as a freelancer—but, sadly, it’s not. To understand why, you must recognize that the bottom line of being a boss is, in fact, the bottom line: it’s about money. The reason you must listen to your boss in a traditional job is that he or she decides how much, and even if, you get paid. When you become a freelancer, you are still trying to get paid for work, but now it’s your customers who decide whether and how much you get paid. And so your clients become your collective “boss”.
If you really want to be your own boss, you need to have enough money that you don’t need to please anyone who pays you; only then can you achieve the sort of freedom that most of us want. While freelancing can help you get there, you definitely aren’t there while you are doing the freelancing work itself. (Oh, and guys, if you really want to be your own boss, you might also want to be careful about that whole marriage thing. ;) )
That said, while you may not really be your own boss as a freelancer, you do have more freedom than as a salaried worker. Because even though you still have bosses, you at least have some control over who they are, which is not the case in a big company. You can spend time getting to know a client before you agree to work for them. In some cases it isn’t easy to tell in advance who will be a good customer and who won’t, but in others it is fairly obvious. And this is a skill that you’ll get better at in time.
Of course, some providers can afford to be more selective than others in whom they choose as “bosses”. This depends largely on your field, how established you are in it, how much work you need, and how many projects are available. It’s also a function of the economy as a whole—as I write this, the economy is in the middle of a severe recession, and nearly all freelancing sites are “buyer’s markets”. As a provider, you probably won’t be able to afford to be too picky, especially at first.
But there are other advantages to being a freelancer as well, with respect to the whole boss-employee dynamic. If you make a mistake in deciding whom to work for in a company, you could be stuck with an unpleasant or unreasonable boss for years; as a freelancer, you only have to endure such an individual for the duration of your project. Also, you can increase your percentage of “good bosses” over time, by doing repeat work for reasonable clients, while avoiding future projects listed by those who are a pain in the butt.
A later section in the Online Freelancing Guide will provide many more details and tips on how to deal with difficult employers and problems with projects.
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The Online Freelancing Guide (http://www.FreelancingGuide.net)
Last Site Update: October 21, 2011
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