It wasn’t long ago that society considered the freelance life to be something ungrounded, irresponsible, and pretty much just a foolish substitute for “proper” work.
Becoming a freelancer might end up changing everything you thought would always stay the same.
P for Productivity, Problem, and Ph*ck This
It’s been a long time coming.
It’s no secret that clocking in hours at the office isn’t always a recipe for model productivity- in fact, all the latest studies tell us is that our typical 9-5 jobs do more harm, reduce motivation, and damage productivity levels more than anything else.
There’s something in our society’s concept of the work-life balance that seems to have gone drastically wrong- and it’s high time that it changed
But, it is how it is… Isn’t It?
More and more people are finding means to move their work online, either by participating in virtual teams, e-commerce, co-working spaces, telecommuting, or online “talent platforms”.
The barriers to entry into the freelance life are rapidly dissolving, and the workforce is chomping at the bit to gain access to a lifestyle that promises flexibility, freedom, and balance.
How I (Ungracefully) Went Full-On Freelance
I teetered on the edge of the freelance lifestyle for a few months before I actually took the plunge, which isn’t all that long when you put it into perspective.
In a way, I suppose I’m one of the lucky ones who happened to be born when I was, and graduate when I did, and find myself in a job market that was so shockingly insufficient (the phrase “couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery” springs to mind), that the only option was to tread a different path.
After muddling my way through various online talent platforms, getting scammed by a couple of would-be clients, and threatening to throw my laptop out the window more than once… I finally managed to claw, climb, and crack my way into the freelance life.
I don’t know much, but if there’s one thing I am sure of it’s this:
If I can do it, anyone can.
I left Ireland on a plane to China with €200 in my bank account, no safety net, and no notion of what I’d do if it all went pear-shaped.
Not go home, that was for sure.
Why Becoming a Freelancer will Change EVERYTHING
I’m not sure how you qualify as an expert on the matter, and I certainly don’t think I am one. That being said, if you ever need someone to tell you how not to get pickpocketed by a monkey during your first month abroad, I’m your gal.
There are, however, a few nuggets of knowledge I’ve tripped over and fallen headfirst into while on this path to freelancerdom.
For all of you aspiring nomads out there, here’s how becoming a freelancer will change your life:
#1 You’ll completely change your appreciation of time
Working an office job can often (not always, just…often) lull people into a faux-productivity, where tasks are completed by deadlines, but not as efficiently or effectively as they could be.
Where hours worth of meetings are held to communicate items that could have been relayed in a short email.
Where sitting behind your desk is the main signifier you have that anyone is “working” despite the fact that the majority are distracted, despondent, and don’t want to be there.
As a freelancer, your work is generally results based, which means you are no longer held to strict working hours.
Deadlines are still sacred- perhaps even more so in the freelance world- but the difference is that the work you do is done on your time.
Maybe it’s that the opportunity cost of your time suddenly becomes much more of a reality when you aren’t chained to the desk at the office.
Maybe it’s realising that being efficient in your work offers a direct reward: more time to do- well- whatever it is that you want.
As soon as you become a freelancer, your time belongs to you again.
#2 Your work will be more meaningful
Gone will be the days of receiving a task list from the top down and plugging away at it until the next one pings into your mailbox.
Becoming a freelancer means you’ll have to take it upon yourself to hunt down your work.
For this reason, every work task that you find, secure, and complete successfully will represent something quite profound. For me, it’s a sense of accomplishment far greater than any I ever felt at my conventional workplace.
#3 Your discipline and productivity will improve (by necessity)
Increased appreciation for your work has a positive influence on your productivity levels. It makes sense that if you’re proud of what you’re doing, you’ll want to do more of it- and this is a recipe for improvement.
There’s a steep learning curve for a lot of new freelancers:
Especially if your new freelance career is an area you don’t have piles of experience in. I’ll put it this way, there’s stuff I wrote 5 years ago that I genuinely gawk at the idea of anyone reading, but I’m told that’s all a part of the process. *insert skeptical emoji here*.
Discipline is at the core of success for those taking the leap into becoming a freelancer:
A strong work ethic and the ability to schedule your hours (working and non-working) is crucial. The good news is that even if it doesn’t come naturally to you, it’s not a hard thing to learn how to do- and it’s where you’ll reap the most rewards from becoming a freelancer.
#4 You’ll have more control over your day-to-day life
Whether that means taking a walk to the local market in the morning to stock up on fresh fruits and veggies, sneaking in a morning surf session, or just being able to wake up at the time that feels right for your body- becoming a freelancer opens up a world where you have the power to be totally in control of your day-to-day schedule.
The knock-on effect?
Your motivation and productivity levels will naturally improve too (as long as you have the discipline we just talked about) because you’ll be able to choose to work at the hours of the day that your brain is most creative/effective/powerful and take breaks when you feel your attention is waning, or when there’s something else that needs seeing to instead (did someone say 20 knots?).
For some, this means a healthier life, more time to exercise, more headspace to eat how and what you want, more time to practice the sports you love, a chance to go for a drive to clear your head, or maybe simply- freedom to choose when to spend time with the people who matter.
#5 You’ll have (or be on your way to) location independence
Location independence is something high on every nomad’s value list when it comes to their work.
Me? I’ve negotiated contracts solely based on this point because it’s become that important to me.
Becoming a freelancer doesn’t always mean immediate location independence; some circumstances will require check-ins, meetings, or access to specific clients, suppliers, or partners; but even if that is the case, you’ll still be more independent than you were sitting at the office desk.
Real-deal bona fide location independence is a different animal though.
…and in my experience- once you get it, there’s no going back.
Working from wherever you want- not just in terms of your workspace but in terms of the world- represents the greatest type of freedom I’ve ever known; and when we look at how the movement is taking off, we can confidently say it signifies nothing short of a workforce revolution.
About time, we say.
After fumbling my way through a year of studying abroad in China, I made the mad-hatter decision to pack up my life in Ireland and move to Asia full time. It's been a wild ride, and I've even managed to pick up some cool little tricks along the way- like how to kitesurf, and speak Chinese (though not very well simultaneously). These days, you can find me beach-bumming around this part of the globe, looking for the best places to put down my bag of bikinis, my board, and my little black doggy.