Yesterday I listed some of the “Con’s” of freelancing. Please read that first if you haven’t already.
Now that that’s out of the way I want to focus on some of the “Pro’s”, the terrific and exciting aspects of freelancing which, in my opinion, far outweigh the negatives and make the whole adventure worthwhile. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t have stuck at it for ten years and counting:
Pro #1: You are your own boss. You decide when to work and when to take a break. You decide which projects you will work on. You negotiate the deadlines. There are no superiors to report to (just make sure your clients are happy). No boring meetings. No annoying co-workers. You enjoy a great deal of freedom compared to your cubicle-bound counterparts. You can buy groceries at 10 am when there is no traffic and no lines at the checkout. You run your own show! I can’t think of a career choice that offers you more personal freedom.
Pro #2: You work in the comfort of your own home. There’s no rush-hour commute (which saves on gas), no parking hassles, not even a dress code. You can roll out of bed, stroll across the hall, and get right to work in your pajamas if you want. You make lunch in your own kitchen. You take breaks on your own couch. If you’ve got kids at home you can create special moments with them throughout the day. Your workplace is your castle.
Pro #3: No Salary Caps. There is a lot of financial stress that comes with freelancing (see yesterday’s post). But there is also a lot of opportunity! If you do quality work, act like a professional, market yourself well, and practice sound business skills, then there’s always potential for your income to grow. I don’t want to mislead anyone and say that freelancing is the path to riches, because it’s not. Most freelancers are firmly planted in the middle-class. My point is that your salary is not locked-in. Rather than working to line your employer’s pockets, everything you make is your own (although if you’re smart you’ll pour a lot of it back into your business). Nobody else can tell you how much your income has to be. You can always hunt for more work, better clients, or adopt smarter working methods and as a result your income can always keep growing.
Pro #4: Few Distractions. As a freelancer you can hole up in your studio and often work for several hours with little if any interruptions. (To help with this, I’ve even changed my email settings so that my computer only looks for new email manually.) I get an occasional phone call and my wife sometimes pops in, but often I can work completely uninterrupted for large chunks of time and, as a result, be more productive. There is no boss looking over my shoulder, no clatter or chatter in the background. Just me and my inner muse.
Pro #5: Variety. Freelancing is never the same-old-same-old. Every project is unique, and the work is seldom dull. One week you might be illustrating a magazine article, the next week you might be designing a character for an ad campaign or creating artwork for a website. Boredom is practically non-existent. The only time you’ll see most freelancers yawn is when they’ve been up late working on their latest creation. If by chance you do get a stinker of a project, you can take comfort in the fact that it will soon be over and you’ll be on to something fresh and new. Every project can be a fun and fascinating challenge.
I’ve saved the best for last…
Pro #6: It’s a ton of fun! As a freelance illustrator you can make a living doing what you love. Sometimes I have to pinch myself because I can’t believe I’m being paid to do something I really, truly enjoy. How many people do you know who actually look forward to going to work in the morning? I do, and I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. That’s a rare privilege.
Freelancing is not for everyone. It takes an independent spirit, a strong sense of responsibility, a level of professionalism, and a high tolerance for risk (it can take months or even years before you have enough clients to maintain a comfortable income). And of course you have to be a pretty good artist with a strong portfolio. But if you find yourself getting excited about the “pro’s” and feel you can weather the “con’s”, then freelancing just might be the career for you.
I’ve barely scratched the surface in these last two posts. For more information about freelancing there are some excellent books on my Recommended Resources page on Amazon.com.
[EDIT: A few days after writing this post I stumbled upon a nifty article: 8 Common Misconceptions About Freelancers.]