Since giving notice at my full-time job this past May, a lot of people have asked me what self employment is really like. This Washington Post article does a good job summarizing the pros and cons of working for yourself.
I was glad to connect with journalist Vickie Elmer and provide my perspective for the piece. There’s a lot of media coverage of the apparent freelance revolution. But as an active participant in the “Gig Economy,” I am consistently disappointed with the “woe is me” tone in a lot of the writing about freelancers and solopreneurs. The focus is often on the negatives: long and irregular hours, finding business consistently etc. Perhaps we’re getting an imbalance of this view because these days, a lot of people didn’t choose self-employment. They became freelancers by accident because of the economy.
But for those of us who were deliberate about this, it can be frustrating to be placed in the same category as the freelancers who are just trying to make a go of it until they find a suitable full-time job. I respect the accidental freelancers and their ability to improvise. It’s just that the narrative doesn’t resonate with all of us who spent time working toward the switch to self-employment.
My solution? I don’t identify myself as a freelancer. I generally introduce myself as a journalist/media consultant or online communications consultant. So I was really happy to get the final word in Vickie’s Washington Post article and (hopefully) avoid the “woe is me” freelancer tone. Here’s the end of the piece:
Schiff made the switch gradually, taking side jobs and clients for at least two years as she worked full-time at the Kaiser Family Foundation. She often had two to four clients to juggle, so when she switched to full-time contractor “in some ways it was kind of a relief. I just had more control over my schedule” after she left this spring, she said. Usually she creates the schedule and deadlines for many of her projects, except perhaps for her work as managing editor of a blog for Brazen Careerist, a site aimed at 20-somethings building their work lives.
She and Loyer agree freelancing requires self-discipline. “You have to adhere to self-imposed limits,” Schiff said. “No one else is going to be looking out for your time.”
She still has plenty of friends in the worlds of government, media and nonprofits. “I don’t know anyone who gets paid overtime. Now I get paid for the time I put in,” she said, since most clients pay her by the hour. That is a distinct advantage: “I’m still putting my heart and soul into it. I’m just getting paid.”