Admit it. Why do you really freelance?

September 2, 2010 by Dean Rieck
Filed under: Freelancing 

Why do you freelance?Today there’s a flood of people who want to freelance.

And if you listen to some of the freelance gurus, you’d think it’s because of the money.

It’s true. You can easily make $50K a year working just a few hours a week. And 6 figures isn’t all that hard if you freelance full-time. With a little skill, plus some persistence, you can get to $200K or $300K or more.

But that’s not why I got into freelancing.

Back in the 90s, I got into freelancing because I hated all the jobs I had.

Paint mixing guy in a hardware store. Radio account executive. TV producer. Nonprofit development director. English teacher.

So when people ask me why I freelance, I tell them it’s a better lifestyle. I’m just not cut out for a 9-to-5 job. I don’t like ties. I don’t like rigid schedules. I don’t always play well with others. So freelancing is ideal for me.

Plus, I have a ton of other interests I need time for, including politics, competitive target shooting, cycling, and gardening.

What about you?

Why do you freelance? Or why do you hope to freelance? Is it really just about the money? Or is it something else?

Is it the freedom or the control you have over your fate? Is it that you like the challenge of running a small business? Do you enjoy the wider variety of projects that freelancing can bring? Do you hate commuting or working in a cubicle? Do you want to spend more time with your family?

Or you do you think that freelancing can give you experience and lead to a better job, like an executive position. I know I’ve been offered quite a few jobs over the years. One client recently offered me a marketing director position in a start-up corporation with a high 6-figure salary. I turned him down because I knew I’d be miserable.

Tell me the number one reason you freelance. Be honest. What is it about freelancing that you love so much?

Post your answer in the comment section, then ask your freelancing friends to do the same. Tweet this post, share it on Facebook, or just email a link. I think it would be interesting to see why we all do what we do and why we have so much passion for it.

If you have a story, tell it.

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Smart Comments

16 Comments on Admit it. Why do you really freelance?

  1. Beth on Sep 2nd, 2010 9:36 am
  2. I freelance because, like you, I’ve hated every job I’ve ever had. I also really like to write and feel challenged (in a good way) by all the new and different projects that come my way.

    Originally, I wanted more flexibility in my schedule and I did (and still do) want to spend more time with my family, but mostly I wanted to be happier — to do work I love without a boss dictating the details and procedures.

    I’m not in the big money yet, but I’m working on it. I do enjoy what I’m doing more than I ever have.

  3. Mike Klassen on Sep 2nd, 2010 10:39 am
  4. I take the “free” in “freelance” seriously. I love the freedom.

    I really locked onto what another freelancer said in Daniel Pink’s Free Agent Nation book. The guy talked about the joy of freelancing for him:

    “Working when, where, how much, under what conditions and for whom I want.”

    It’s all about the freedom to control lots of different variables that you often can’t control as an employee.

    Of course, the surprising secret is that everyone is a freelancer… some just freelance for one company as an employee. Unfortunately, in the last few years especially, we’ve seen how unstable a situation it can be to freelance for just one company.

  5. Dean Rieck on Sep 2nd, 2010 10:59 am
  6. @Mike: I like the idea that everyone is a freelancer. That gives a whole new perspective to making the decision to “go out” on your own. Really, everyone is already out on their own. They just don’t know it.

  7. Lucy Smith on Sep 2nd, 2010 5:28 pm
  8. If I’m honest freelanced because, in the depths of the recession, I couldn’t find a job.

    But I kept doing it because: I hate getting up in the morning, I hate team meetings (client meetings are different), I don’t like office politics, and I like to be myself and not have to toe some corporate line. I don’t like having to apply for annual leave to take the day off, and although here in NZ you’re entitled to four weeks a year, I don’t like being made to feel that I’m inconveniencing anyone by needing some time off. I like that the only performance review I go through is that which I give to myself, and that I can work to the schedule that’s best for me.

    And I’m learning so much more than I ever did as an employee, and I love that.

  9. Dean Rieck on Sep 2nd, 2010 6:46 pm
  10. @Lucy: Ugh. Office politics. I don’t miss that at all.

  11. P.S. Jones @Diary of A Mad Freelancer on Sep 2nd, 2010 6:48 pm
  12. I freelance because I’d rather put my blood, sweat and tears into building my own business into somebody else’s. I’ve also always had a problem with doing something a certain way “because you said so.” Now I make my own decisions. Of course, sometimes I have to do things I don’t want to. But now, it’s on my own terms.

  13. Dean Rieck on Sep 2nd, 2010 7:59 pm
  14. @P.S. I’m with you on the doing something because someone says so thing. That’s what I meant when I said I don’t always play well with others. I’m a Type A personality most of the time.

  15. Joshua Black | The Underdog Millionaire on Sep 3rd, 2010 10:46 am
  16. “What Freelancing Means to Me” …or “How I Spent My Summer Vacation”

    I agree that I do not play as well with others as I would like. It think that freelancing is all about time. When you are dictating how you are spending your own time, typing on a laptop while you’re watching a great movie on Saturday morning doesn’t really come across as a “job” to me.

    I just couldn’t get over the fact that I was making someone else a lot of money off of my efforts. It just got me really angry.

    It was never about the money (well, that’s not true), but the money was always a side benefit. It’s about the freedom. I totally agree.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  17. Sara on Sep 3rd, 2010 3:13 pm
  18. Travel! I quit my job almost 3 years ago so I could travel and work at the same time.

    Once I got into it I was surprised at how much I liked the “business” aspect of being a free writer. I never would’ve guessed that I like sales or accounting.

  19. Lucy Smith on Sep 4th, 2010 12:55 am
  20. Ah yes, travel. Being able to take your laptop with you and go and live in another place as long as a visitor’s visa allows really appeals to me. I’m not there just yet, but it’ll be great to have a steady enough stream of work that I’m comfortable doing that.

  21. Alyson Kiel on Oct 27th, 2010 10:54 pm
  22. You know, I have to be honest – I got into freelancing thinking I’d absolutely love working for myself, that the freedom and no external stress would be great for me… And I discovered that I’m a TERRIBLE boss! I’m not strict, I don’t push my “employee” on deadlines, and I’m in general the kind of person that needs some external structure.

    I know that I’d like to try again one day, but with my terrible boss-ness and the economy, I found it to be a real struggle. So I’m now slowly building up my business while I work 9-5 for a great company in a non-marketing function… saves all my creativity for my side work!

    I’d love to read a great post (and it’s possible that it’s in the backlog!) on good ways to overcome being your own terrible boss!

    That being said – the freedom was INCREDIBLE. I loved being able to work whenever I wanted (although I found I was always working… maybe I’m a workaholic??), and I loved working in a restaurant at lunchtime with free wi-fi and an endless supply of diet coke. I liked being able to visit with friends that I hadn’t seen since college and even spend some time volunteering.

  23. Dean Rieck on Oct 28th, 2010 12:16 am
  24. Alyson,
    Well, I’m sorry to hear it didn’t work out. But you’re smart enough to see the problem and deal with it realistically.

  25. Tamar Cloyd on Jan 11th, 2011 1:36 pm
  26. This is my second time around freelancing. Both times, I did it because I wanted to have more time for my family. As a single mother of two boys, I just could not continue the hour-long commutes only to rush back home, shove food down my kids’ throats, and try to spend some “quality” time with them before bed. I used to think that I had bad luck with jobs. But now I realize, that working a 9 to 5 is just not me. I can be just as motivated as a fundraiser working outside of an organization as I can within it…

  27. Dean Rieck on Jan 12th, 2011 7:00 pm
  28. Tamar,
    Yes, 9 to 5 isn’t my cup of tea either. But now often it’s 9am to 10pm … or midnight … or ….

  29. Deborah on Jan 12th, 2011 8:00 pm
  30. I too, hated every job I ever had, especially my last one. I got tired of working so hard, still being poor while my employers got rich. I wanted a way that I decided what I was worth, and how much I worked, and how much I made. I’m still not even up to that $50,000 a year, but I’m closing in on $30,000, so $50,000 isn’t far away. It is a lot of hard work, but to me, getting to sit in a lounge chair and work all day, take frequent breaks, and decide when I need a day off is well worth it.

  31. Dean Rieck on Jan 12th, 2011 10:03 pm
  32. Deborah,
    I don’t know what you charge for your services, but I rapidly increased my fees in my first few years. I found that I could charge far more than I assumed for specialized work. Don’t be afraid to quote high with a new client just to see what happens. I called it “turning over and trading up” as I left old clients behind and worked my way toward better paying clients. Most writers are worth more than they earn.