Every so often we need to remind ourselves that freelancing is neither just good or bad.
We need to do this because most media coverage present freelancing and independent work as either really good or really bad. Only a few articles point out that freelancing has a good side, a bad side and many shades of grey between the good and the bad.
The Huffington Post's Freelance - The Double Edged Sword is one of the few. It does an excellent job of describing both the good and bad of freelancing.
The article does this by breaking the word freelancer into two parts - "free" (the good) and "lance" (the bad).
Key quote on the "free":
The ultimate perk: freedom. Working independently gives flexibility with hours, and in some respects location. After having kids this became a huge bonus.
There's the variety, projects big and small, high paying, low paying, interesting, mundane, changing faces, fresh ideas, new clients... all this can be thrilling and it's deeply satisfying to see a project through to the end and move to the next.
There's the possibility. Something great could always be just around the corner. There are no set salaries, no limits on how to direct one's efforts. Being one's own boss is great. When it's good it's really good.
Key quote on the "lance":
There's the battle. Having to generate, fight for, promote, and defend your work can be downright exhausting. Not to mention chasing down unpaid invoices. Downtime on a Saturday very often becomes a brainstorming session about clients, projects, and finances. It can feel like Monday every day of the week. And forget about holidays... most often they feel like lost time.
There's the responsibility. It's all on your shoulders. Paying out of pocket for health care (not everyone qualifies for the Freelancers Union), quarterly taxes, accounting, bookkeeping, promotion, marketing, negotiations, pre and post project management. You're the boss and there's no one to complain to.
There's the uncertainty. I'd say that's the hardest part. A dry spell can leave your nervous system and psychological health in shambles. When it's tough, it can be really, really tough.
The author of this article has decided the good sides of freelancing outweigh the bad. Key quote:
For all the grey hairs and sleepless nights, I love the way I work. I love the freedom and I'll keep trying to turn that lance into a force for good.
But we also interview lots of people who see the bad of freelancing outweighing the good and prefer traditional employment.
Both views are, of course, valid.
Polarized media coverage tends to lead to polarized view points and debates.
It also takes the focus off what we think is the key issue, which is how do we make freelancing more economically safer and secure.