Working, Ottawa, April 2015
Working, Ottawa, April 2015

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.

I busted five myths about freelancing, it’s now time to highlight the perks. Eh, I’m not a masochist, there is a reason why I quit my last office job!

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.

Building confidence

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!

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  1. Cynthia April 29, 2015 at 10:58 am

    I’m waiting to get my French nationality (much harder to get if you don’t have a CDI) and after that I might take the plunge and become my own boss. I think that the most annoying thing on your list is pre­sen­teeism … when I work on my personal projects I can spend six or eight hours in deep concentration and get things done which is impossible in an office. Plus, often times I take a shorter lunch because I had things to take care of … but when I’m ten minutes late in the morning there’s a lot of drama!

    1. Zhu April 29, 2015 at 7:50 pm

      Same here. I feel so efficient when I manage my own time. I had no idea French citizenship was conditional to a job offer.

      1. Martin Penwald April 30, 2015 at 10:17 pm

        I don’t think it is, but getting french citizenship is very hard, because there is no policy of immigration like in Canada.
        For example, one path to get it is to enroll in the « légion étrangère » , but I had a co-worker who had stayed 9 years enrolled and who didn’t get it. That’s why he came to Canada, to have a decent citizenship (his passeport was from the C.E.I, the thing which appeared after the fall of U.S.S.R and before the actual Russia).

        1. Zhu April 30, 2015 at 10:58 pm

          Yeah, I know it’s super hard. I like the way Canada deals with citizenship requests best.

  2. Bee Ean April 29, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    I see a lot of self discipine involves in freelancing.
    I like office job, the interaction, going to lunch with coworkers…
    And these days in my field more and more people are working from home. As long as I work x hours per day as stated in my contract, I’m free to come and to go at my wish. I mean I don’t need to show up at 9am sharp, I could arrive at 9h25, if I take a quite lunch I could leave earlier, if I take 2 hours lunch I would leave later. My coworkers who work from home can go to pick up their kids at 4h30, go to swimming pool with them, then start working again at 9pm if they didn’t work enough hours for the day.
    But, these flexibilities are earned by trust between employees and employers.

    1. Zhu April 29, 2015 at 9:18 pm

      I agree with your assessment. Many office workers would love to work remotely and enjoy some flexibility. From my own experience, this privilege is rarely granted though. Even workplaces that promote a better work/life balance kind of fail at it. I like trying to figure out my own balance 🙂

  3. Gagan April 30, 2015 at 12:15 am

    My wife has freelanced many times, although she has a office job and I have always been an office goer. Once in a week we do have a discussion over freelancing v/s office job.

    Although both options have pros and cons, as you have already written about in your two articles. I want to add one thing, going solo (freelancing) is quite attractive however it comes at a cost. One needs to be really patient and then one needs to be really more patient. I believe you have already mentioned these things in your previous article.

    My profession has the freelance option, I never took the leap. 🙂 I am Mr. Skeptismo

    1. Zhu April 30, 2015 at 7:59 pm

      I completely agree! I think for me it was easier to make the decision because I didn’t have a long career in Canada AND there is a market (keeping fingers crossed!) for my skills in Ottawa. My parents were also mostly self-employed (my dad as an artist and a graphic designer, my mum had many careers) so this way of life was familiar.

      1. Gagan May 1, 2015 at 1:37 am

        That is a good news that Ottawa has a market for this Industry; if everything goes well with our application we are dreaming to be in Ottawa 🙂

        I owe you so many Starbucks for this wonderful blog of yours and you being always so helpful 🙂

        1. Zhu May 1, 2015 at 4:22 pm

          🙂 I’ll buy you a coffee when you make it here!

          1. Gagan May 1, 2015 at 11:45 pm

            🙂 Thanks

            You know whenever my wife and I are making plans, I always insist that the first atop out of the airport is going to be at a Tim Hortons, the real confusion is should I go for my regular black coffee without sugar or should I go with the hyped double and double ;p

          2. Zhu May 2, 2015 at 8:14 pm

            I’m a black coffee kind of person… hey, what don’t you let the employee makes the decision? Most of the time, when I ask for black coffee, I end up with a double-double because people who take their coffee black are apparently a rarity 😆

          3. Gagan May 1, 2015 at 11:46 pm

            lol, not ‘first atop’, I meant ‘first stop’ 🙂

  4. Christiane May 10, 2015 at 11:08 am

    Freelancing is not for the faint of heart so kudos to you !!

    1. Zhu May 10, 2015 at 4:47 pm


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