Today’s blog comes due to an article on Yahoo. It is not the likeliest place, but with the FIFA & Greece (I wonder how the FIFA in Greece is doing), and a few other misalignment of human nature, the one in Yahoo caught my eye for a few reasons.
The article ‘Working 9-to-5 becoming a less popular way to make a living‘ (at http://finance.yahoo.com/news/working-9-5-becoming-less-125244387.html) should be regarded as a flawed article. It merely looks at the positive elements, like being your own boss and the implied thought of more money and I do state implied!
There is another article (at https://www.legalzoom.com/articles/top-5-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-being-a-freelancer) which is titled ‘Top 5 Advantages and Disadvantages of Being a Freelancer‘. They listed them in a nice order, I had seen them and even personally experienced them, so let’s take a look.
- You have to make more than your previous salary.
Even though you think you have more deductions, you also have a lot more costs. Health insurances will have to be added issues, because you need to get your own enhanced insurance to counter paid sick leave and also the insurance for when there is no work and no income at all. When you are the ‘wage slave’ those elements are all the risk your boss takes and when you are in a workers pool of 5-20 that engine keeps on running, but when you are by yourself, you are 100% risk and that risk translates into premiums that go up sharply.
Some nations have a much better arrangements for paid vacation leave through work, that must now all fall in your own pocket and costings, so you need to get at least 5%-10% more to remain even with paid vacations, in addition, the other insurances, retirement plans, and a few other insurances will add up to a lot. Did you consider that in your mental costing?
- You have to be a lot more versatile!
This is not just about you designing, or you doing the consultancy. You need to master acquisition (the next job around the corner) and that is just the obvious part, you become the office manager, the scheduler, the accountant’s abuser and bookkeeper and the legal ‘go between’ when billing goes southwards, this list goes on a lot further and each moment of versatility comes with its own mindset, you will need to have them all!
- You have to deal with inconsistent cash flow
- You are responsible for finding your own work
I already mentioned them, but issues 2, 3 and 4 are intertwined. The versatility of being the salesperson, the bookkeeper and the consultancy person are three jobs all rolled into one, when you miss out, cash flow becomes irregular, which is also dependent on you scoring new jobs. The proactive forecasted ‘sales pipeline’ is all you and you alone, there is no one to blame but you when it goes wrong! This is the first moment when you are confronted with the power of teamwork and a team of 1 is as old as the Romans (I).
- The coin stops with you!
Yes the blame game is no more (if you ever did it), you can blame the CFO, the scheduler, the consultant and distribution, but they are all at one and the same phone extension, which is you and you alone!
This list was done by Belle Wong in November 2014. She did a fine job. I skipped over the positive parts for a reason, which will be clear soon enough. You see, Freelance is not for everyone, many of those who do it are usually thrust in that position outside of their own volition. There are scores who do it, I cannot deny that, but many of them tend to be in a niche market where it is really fine dining as there is no equal competition. That part is seen in places where incomes spike, which is usually a good deal, but the downside is that if you are not an established person like Sir Kenneth Robinson you better remain top dog or your income will dwindle rather fast.
You see, this is why I have an issue with the Yahoo article. When we see quotes like “Henry W. Brown ditched his fledging advertising career 11 years ago, sick of spending 15 hours a day at work and having ‘no life’. Now he works 30 hours a week, juggling about four projects a year and earns a salary in the six figures designing websites and apps“. This quote is very surreal and I even doubt the correctness of it. 4 projects a year also implies 4 deadlines and 4 final deliveries. What happens when they overlap, what happens when in three months that next job does not come through, or complications with that current job? This might be a top dog, but in mobile apps, the new (read next) top dogs are usually one development update away.
The other two quotes are “Affordable health insurance plans, which kept many workers shackled to traditional jobs, are more accessible because of the Affordable Care Act” and “companies are increasingly open to hiring freelancers and independent contractors. Many say independent workers bring fresh ideas without the long-term commitment“. In the US there is an affordable care act, but that is the only thing. That care act does not get you an income when you became a hit and run victim, or if you slip on icy pavement and you are recuperating. Even though some insurances can be made, these insurances are very expensive. They are usually not that expensive for a boss who insures all his staff, that means that the slack from you gets taken on by co-worker 1, 2 or 3. Which means the company goes on. In your freelance space it is ONLY YOU. Which means 100% drop out, at which moment premiums go up faster than you can blink your eyes at.
The second one is the part I have the greatest issue with. You see, we all work hard for a firm, we put in the hours and we get it done. So in the case of a decent boss, when there is a lull, you get to relax half a day. As you deliver, he/she will not object. But when you relax in your own firm, the equation changes as relax equals non-paid moment. When you have a busy schedule this is nice, when one job did not get through, any lull will become aggravating, because the next bills are always less than a month away. So for corporations to rely on freelancers is nice, but when too many freelancers remain, the price gets pushed down, now, when you have a family it will upset the life balance, which means that this boss gets a sweet deal, it is sweet because the social and fiscal responsibility is no longer there as they are freelancers. In that world no work means no pay at all.
There are a few other issues that neither article looked upon. You see, when I was a Freelancer, I worked at home, if you are a rich person with a separate work room, there is a small degree of separation, when it is not, your work and home life become indistinguishable. This means that the expression ‘home is where the office is’ becomes a serious reason for depression. Freelancers, when they are not working a pure sales job are at additional risk of becoming socially isolated. The danger here is not just the isolation, it is that freelancer will usually be in denial of it, making matters worse.
In the end, being a freelance is not all bad, but it is usually in the beginning of your career. My Freelance days were for the most decent, because in 1990 there was a lack of Clipper programmers, there were loads of jobs and I was able to do it on the side. There was an additional benefit that my rent in those days was then set at $195 a month for a 1-bedroom apartment. Now, the average rent is above $400 a week, that makes for really bad overhead and that is when there is no family to worry about, when junior gets sick and mommy is of working too, healthcare comes directly out of your income and your deadline flies off to never never land. I never had those complication, but in today’s world, many freelancers are 30+ and if the partner does not have a full time job, whether he/she freelances or not the pressure of missed deadlines/complications usually translates into no rent/mortgage.
These are realities you face in the world of Freelance!
So when you see these options of $2500 a day, you better believe that this is for people who are beyond flexible. I am not just talking about the decades of experience. They better have a setup that exceeds the usual corporate standards, or they will lose more time than they are comfortable with! In all this, who considered the cost of hardware and software for that matter, because the job had it for you and it is tax deductable, but you better have the goods beforehand and software can be extremely pricey!
So when you consider the article by Joseph Pisani you better keep a realistic eye on the negative and the unmentioned parts of being a Freelancer, for many bosses it is great as monthly costs are gone. The freelancer gets those costs added, and the end result is a lot less fun that the article implied it to be.