Every day, more and more information is published online about the freelance lifestyle, and it’s not all accurate. In fact, there are a few myths floating around out there that have the potential to mislead future freelancers and cause some big mistakes.
Having run my own boutique agency (that is, freelance business) for more than five years, I can help. Let me be a voice of reason amid the online noise. Here are the seven most common freelancing myths and their truthful counterparts from someone who’s been there.
Myth #1: Freelancing Is Easier Than Traditional Employment
This oversimplified assessment comes from the mental image most aspiring freelancers have of working in slippers from a laptop on the couch. The truth is a little more complicated, as freelancing forces entrepreneurs to learn and execute unfamiliar facets of business administration — which can be agonizing. So yes, you can be in stretchy pants, but no, you won’t spend work hours relaxing.
Myth #2: The Market Is Saturated
Spend a minute or two on any bidding site or job board, and you’ll notice hundreds of applicants per every well-qualified gig. It resembles a super saturated market, with no room for you. Thankfully, though, that’s an illusion. By 2020, half of the American workforce will be freelancing in some capacity, according to Forbes. Most often, the multitudes of competitors you see bidding on a job for peanuts are ill-qualified, and the client knows it.
Myth #3: You’re Not an Expert in Anything
Great news: You can become a go-to authority in something quickly. There’s no shortage of (credible) online certification programs or courses you can take to become an expert within a few months. Depending on your passion for the niche you choose, you may be inhibited more by your mindset than your professional chops. For legal reasons, an investment coach or medical writer should have more education than, say, a SquareSpace website designer or a gardening consultant. But no one should believe the myth that they can’t launch a freelance business because they “aren’t good enough.”
Myth #4: You Need a Strong Portfolio of Samples to Get Started
This is something many freelancing newbies hear, and it can be downright discouraging. It’s true you’ll need to show prospects examples of your work, but the lack of a shining portfolio shouldn’t keep you from pursuing your dreams. Instead, refocus on building your portfolio for a while, not your client list. This may mean volunteering your talents to your favorite nonprofit for testimonials and clips. Or, you could trade services with another freelancer to score samples and five-star reviews of your work.
Myth #5: If You Risk It, You Could Lose Everything
This myth may originate from within most future freelancers, not necessarily the internet or word-of-mouth. Either way, it should be exposed early. A simple business insurance plan can ensure you’re not risking your personal assets when you launch your freelance business. This myth often indicates a fear of failure which, if left unchecked, wreaks havoc on a freelancer’s ability to perform. And that can instigate a nasty, self-fulfilling prophecy.
Myth #6: A Lack of Focus Will Be Your Downfall
It’s a legitimate concern for creatives that if your ideas are all over the place, you won’t be able to focus and make your business successful. The same strengths that make you a prolific ideation machine can also work against you when it’s time to follow through and produce real work consistently. My advice here is to know this tendency up front. Then, jump in and surprise yourself. You might find right-brained types can, when motivated, become the most productive business owners of all.
Myth #7: You’re Going to Face Tons of Rejection
This is one of the most common freelancing myths that, honestly, says more about you than your clients. Sure, there will be requests for revisions in your work, and you’ll occasionally receive constructive feedback. Yes, there will even be a few flat-out rejection emails from prospects. These episodes will sting, but a little perspective can actually help you come to appreciate them. Grab a copy of Jia Jiang’s book Rejection Proof for a dose of humorous wisdom on the topic. Who knows — you may eventually even look forward to the occasional setback.
There are many other illusions out there surrounding the freelance lifestyle. All the fairy tales, ironically, are rooted in an element of truth, which makes them hard to debunk. Perhaps the very best way to investigate a theory is to test it out yourself. If you start small and strategize carefully, your freelance story can encourage others to find the true side in every myth, too.