People often think that being self-employed, working from home or freelancing—the terms are often interchangeable in conversations—is awesome. Unfortunately, as I explained before, there are many misconceptions about this career choice.
Being a Jack-of-all-trades
I work as an English-to-French translator, bilingual copywriter, editor and proofreader—but sometimes I translate documents from French to English, edit manuscripts in French, or proof communication products in English. I don’t have a specific job title awarded to me by HR along with a job description. I’m not stuck in a role, I can be whatever I want depending on the need. To use a travel metaphor, it’s like I’m exploring Europe instead of staying in Paris for a month. I deal with all kinds of clients too: the “Germans” who have a long list of requirements down to where commas should be placed; the “British” and their über-polite requests; the “Italians” who insist on describing projects LOUDLY OVER THE PHONE; the “French” and their urgent assignments that will be cancelled at the last minute because the manager is away; the “Spanish” who let me do whatever I want as long as I translate into French and not Hindi; the “Swiss” who pay very well; the “Belgians” who feed me chocolate when I work on-site… Oh, and let’s not forget the “Russians” who want to know exactly what I’m doing, where the files are stored and where I am sitting right now. At the end of the day, I feel that my skills were put to good use—including my interpersonal skills.
Developing new non-job specific skills
Talking about abilities, I don’t have a team to back me up (they didn’t fit under my desk), so I was forced to develop new skills to operate efficiently. I hired an accountant to do my yearly corporate taxes, but I’m responsible for billing, basic accounting and getting these damn invoices paid on time. I can’t call IT, I have to fix my own computer and update hardware and software. I know a thing or two about marketing because I’m constantly looking for new clients, and I try to stay on top of industry-specific news—like if a new letter is added to the alphabet, I’ll be in the first million to know. I’m that connected.
Gaining insights into many industries
I work with clients from the private and public sectors, and I deal with topics such as politics, marketing, media relations, agriculture, governance, real estate and many more. I don’t jump into these fields blindly: background info comes with each assignment and I do my own research. As a result, I’m generally aware of current issues and I acquired an all-around knowledge in several fields. If one day I need a new job, I think I could be a Renaissance courtesan—these classy and elegant women capable of taking part in conversations ranging from art to politics. Yeah, okay, I would have had to work on the “classy” and “elegant” requirements of the gig…
Truly appreciating the money you earn
Every month, when I close the books, I’m amazed that I actually generated an income just with… words. I start on the first of the month at “income – $0” and it goes up from there. Oh, I don’t make millions, but I truly appreciate the money I earn, more than when I was on the payroll, because this time, my salary wasn’t determined by a pay scale.
Working more efficiently and being overall more productive
I rarely have an eight-hour workday. Either I’m very busy and it’s a mad twelve-hour rush to meet a deadline and complete a project, or it’s a quiet day with routine tasks that take me three or four hours tops. When I’m busy, I’m really busy and I get the work done. When I’m not, instead of just sitting at my desk surfing time-wasting websites, I’m free to just step out and focus on other stuff—Mark, the house, personal projects, etc. No presenteeism, no useless meetings, no office politics.
Much like an employee in an at-will state, I’m disposable. My clients hire me for a task and once the assignment is completed, they don’t owe me anything but a cheque. When I receive praise, I truly appreciate it because I know it’s not office politics—it’s genuine. And when they hire me over and over again, it feels like a true vote of confidence.
Are you tempted to take the freelance road now?
Edit: if anyone finds a typo here, I’m going to look like an idiot again… warning, this article wasn’t proofed by a skilled freelancer!