The Good and Bad of Freelancing Online

A freelancer is somebody who is self-employed and is not committed to a particular employer for a long term. Freelancers deal directly with their clients. The number of freelancers working in diverse fields has jumped significantly in the recent years and much of this growth can directly attributed to the advent of the Internet. In 1998, Tim Malone and Robert Laubaucher wrote an article titled “Dawn of the e-Lance Economy” in the Harvard Business Review. Immediately after that companies like Elance.com, Guru.com and A2ZMoonlighter.com began their services.

The Internet has been a great leveler – anyone with a computer, an Internet connection and skills that are in demand, can start selling her/his services through the vast reach of this amazing medium.

Benefits of Freelancing

  • You are free to choose the type of work. You choose to work on jobs or projects which you love, have passion for or are comfortable with / skilled at. Unlike working for an organization which is not your own, as a freelancer, you are not pressurized to take on any job you don’t like. That is the single most complaint with most employees– if you dread waking up in the morning with the thought of “Oh-no, not that office again”, then you understand what I am saying.
  • You can choose your working hours. After a long night-out with friends and family, one does not like to stumble groggily into the office for that 9 to 5 job. As a freelancer, you can choose to wake up at whatever time comfortable, have a hearty breakfast, and then pick when to work. You can fulfill family obligations, read a book, add more skills or get more qualifications or just catch up with friends. So, even mothers with babies and old pensioners can work if the desire to. A word of caution – it does not in any way imply that you do not need to put in effort or hard work.
  • You have a choice of workplace. Again, if the pressure of having to dress up for the office everyday bothers you, you can slip into your pajamas and work from your garage or basement or even put on a pair of shorts and go to the workplace of your choice which may be your favorite coffee shop which has Wi-Fi Internet, or your bedroom or the park – whichever place to get you into the mood.
  • You are your own boss. Yes. We all love that feeling of being in control of our lives. No more fear of being judged for asking that day off. Go ahead and take that day off. When you get back work extra. If you are working off your behind in the workplace, but are not appreciated and compensated as per your worth, it does frustrate you, no? Kind of makes you wonder, if only I could run this place…well, you can run your own, right?
  • What you get is what you do. Ever wanted to punch your colleague or the boss for stealing your idea or credit that was due to you? Almost everyone who works hard has had that experience. While freelancing, there is no one to steal your ideas or credit and get that raise / promotion. You get paid for what your work is worth (if not, it’s your fault, not anyone else’s). Your pay is in direct proportion to the effort you put in – in terms of your core function, creativity, marketing etc.

Downsides of Freelancing

As with all things in this world, freelancing is not all a walk in the park. It has its shortcomings too, which is my duty to point out. At the same time, there are ways to tackle these negative aspects too.

  • Grappling with uncertainty. Since you are your own boss, someone has to get the work for you – that someone is YOU. Depending on how you market your skills and work, and how you pursue leads and clients, you may land more jobs or projects and consequently get paid. If you slacken, you lose the next job. This is the most important aspect to keep in mind. The solution to this downside is that you should keep working at it and not despair when you don’t get any work for days or sometimes weeks.
  • No more water cooler chats. Or chai breaks with office buddies. You may miss your colleagues and the office social atmosphere. Ah, those days when you could all order pizzas and watch the World Cup on TV while b*tching about the boss! Well, you can always catch up with your buddies anytime in the local café or bar, no?
  • Jack of all trades. You have to be your own marketing & sales, accounting, customer service and operations department. Although sometimes this issue can take a toll, it can also be a positive, in that you understand the nuances of all these functions and will help in factoring when you decide to expand your venture. Optionally, there are tools and services available for freelancers to outsource most of these functions except for you core-competencies (these too can be outsourced partially to gain time / save effort)

So Should You Freelance?

In these tough times of financial uncertainty, businesses and organizations are looking to maximize their profits and / or cut costs and this has led to the present gloomy job scenario and more people being laid off every day. But that also means that businesses are now considering outsourcing their small jobs to freelancers. So besides catering to the requirements of the market, are you in any way looking for better lifestyle, more money, a medium to express your creativity, utilize your free time or a higher goal like make the world a better place? Then freelancing is an option for you to consider. You can safely say that most of the adult world (and smart teenagers) will fall in one of the following slots.

  • Student. Use your knowledge / skills to get some extra money for that new phone or those cool new shoes. In the process, learn new skills ranging from interpersonal skills to hard skills which will stand in you in good stead when you take up a full time job or give confidence to start a business on your own.
  • Disgruntled office worker. Hate the job / office / boss? Think you / your talent is not recognized? Chuck that job and start on your own if you have the winning attitude and skills / talent.
  • Budding Entrepreneur. Whether you need cash to bootstrap your company or just want to “dip your toes” in the business world, freelancing is the best option since overheads are less as compared to the benefits – tangible or otherwise.
  • Homemaker / Housewife. Free from daily chores and need some extra cash as well as satisfy the urge to be a “working mom” without sacrificing your family needs? This is it.
  • Retired from regular job. Say no to boredom, and get paid in the process. The world needs your expertise / experience and is willing to pay for it.
  • Unemployed. Do I really need to explain?
  • Just need some extra bucks (Moonlighter). Freelance during off duty hours and get that new toy you were looking to buy or go on that dream vacation. Yes, it is possible.

Now that you have read about the benefits and pitfalls of freelancing, do you think you have what it takes to live the exciting life of a freelancer? Read this blog regularly for more on how to leverage your skills to earn your living and live a fulifiling life too.