The most common freelance myths – part 1

There are many common freelance myths about freelancing and they are specific to each encounter. During my interventions in companies, I always hear some employees talking about freelancing and its advantages. Without actually being freelancers, they imagine their lives to be completely different from their own. This can be on one or more aspects: money, travel, relationship management… So many prejudices based on what they see without even talking to me. Misconceptions about what it is like to be self-employed have been floating around since the beginning of my business.

Les idées reçues freelance en photographie

“You work when you want, according to your desires”

Generally, people who want to have a wide availability discuss this advantage. And it is understandable: who dreams of being present for his children, his family, his couple and his friends? All this while being paid. So, I discern two needs linked to this wish: the need of a geographical and time freedom 😉

Geographical freedom has a multitude of definitions: freedom from place, being at a distance, and many others. It is essentially characterized by the fact of being independent of the place where we are. I am thinking in particular of digital nomads, those people roaming the web like on a wave in California and then on a wave in Haiti. This notion of freedom allows us to set up an unusual scheme: the work can be done anywhere as long as it is done. Without going to the extreme of traveling, it is also possible to simply stay home by choice and not by obligation. The important thing is to have valid reasons of our own.

Time freedom is quite different: it is based on our 24-hour day. We sell our time, in one way or another, for money. It’s a fact: having a salary based on the hours spent at work is the same for a freelancer. The difference is in the price. Indeed, whether you are an employee or a freelancer, we do these famous 8-hour days (or more). Only the organization of this day is different. Rare is the freelancer working less than 30 hours / week.

To finish on this first preconceived idea, I will say that it would be more accurate to pay attention to the organization of the day, the week, and the month. The global vision is necessary to realize the volume of hours worked by a freelancer and by a normalized employee. While one person works 8 hours in a row, the other can split it into 2 times 4 hours, or 4 times 2 hours, etc.

“You go on vacation whenever you want”

I would like to define what a vacation really is: a period of legal work stoppage in a company (public or private) fixed according to a calendar whose minimum is 5 weeks. It is in no way explicit that this period is related to travel, rest or other.

In absolute terms, we can go abroad for a vacation or stay at home and watch television. The geographical and time constraint is chosen according to the freelance lifestyle. But, “No pain, no gain“: the freelancer works like everyone else, the days not worked are as much missed income! So I avoid spending my days at the Caribbean beach with a mojito in my hand. 🙂

On the other hand, it is easier to take breaks according to one’s needs in order to come back to one’s activity more freshly. I admit that I sometimes take a full day off during the week because my batteries are empty both physically and psychologically. However, my organization allows me to do so because the intensity of a client project allows me to reach the given objectives quickly. The ideal is a balance between professional and personal life. 

This second misconception emphasizes the cognitive bias of the definition of vacation. Moreover, this effect is accentuated by digital social networks where the visuals clearly show a certain relaxation. I invite you to make a distinction between what is seen, written, and then felt. It is difficult to know if the person seen in the photograph is thinking about a client’s project or not.

Photographie de Gary Barnes d'une plante dans un pot à fleur prête à être empottée - common freelance myths

“You can call in sick without stopping work.”

I wish to never again experience a situation of illness as an independent. It’s nice to dream, isn’t it? Apart from the fact that sick leave is non-existent for freelancers, it is difficult to rest and heal when the calls are coming in. A freelancer can take time off, but there is no social security. So it’s like a day off, but without the rest and organization that goes with it.

Without wishing to be unkind, there is a compulsory scheme for self-employed people. Too few manage to apply all this administration and remain in simplicity. However, the compulsory scheme requires complementary health insurance. And this is when the French freelancer laughs: many criteria of providence are put in place and the whole cumulated hurts the finances, then many traps exist to reduce the rights in case of glitch (the deductible, the duration of compensation, exclusions, etc.).

I prefer to invite you to do what everyone should do: take care of yourself. Listen to your body and your mind, especially in situations of fatigue and imbalance (food, high point in life, sports, etc.). It’s about taking time for yourself to be more productive.
Therefore, we can take time off work, but at the risk of our responsibilities and our health. Again, it’s about finding a balance between what needs to be done: what’s urgent and important and then letting go for a while to heal effectively. Everyone has their own method of self-care, and it differs dramatically from person to person.

Get a grip on the common freelance myths!

These three preconceived notions are mostly personal. It is important to find a balance between availability and the risk of becoming a nanny for a girlfriend’s children for a few unpaid hours. The secret is in the positioning: knowing how to say no. The explanations come in time when the concerned are able to listen to what this unknown territory is offering. Professionally, it will be part 2!