Five Woes of a Freelancer

Born_Freelance Comic by Jason M Tucker(Jason M Tucker — Born Freelance)

1. No work = No money

Obviously, the whole premise of freelancing is that you get paid for the work you do. So the more you do, the more you earn. The less you do, the less you earn.

So, logically you would think that as long as you’re hardworking, you’ll earn a comfortable amount right?

WRONG. Sometimes there just isn’t anything to do. Sometimes none of your contacts are in need of freelancers at that time or you were too caught up in a project the previous week to search for work this week. You know what I mean?

And have you considered what happens when you go on holiday or if you fall ill? You don’t work those days, which means you don’t earn any money. Zilch. There’s no such thing as paid leave for freelancers.

What if you fall ill when there’s a project due that day? Nope, the client isn’t going to wait for you to get well, because she’s got her own deadline to meet. You gotta suck all that mucus back up your nose, and just do the damn work. Panadol is a freelancer’s best friend.

Speaking of clients, it’s pretty known that freelancing isn’t just about skills. It’s not just about writing well, or designing well, or even being particularly hardworking.

It’s also about marketing yourself and being good at maintaining contacts – which I notice most of the people who are good at what they do, suck at.

I’m not sure why that is. It seems like the people who are actually not that good at the services they offer are a lot better at schmoozing. Probably because they know they need it. OR it’s an easier way through life. Why craft your skills when you can just schmooze aye? Maybe that’s something I need to learn. Le sigh. If only I didn’t hate people so much…

2. Doing work could still mean no money

Shit happens. Clients sometimes don’t pay up on time, some may even decide not to pay you at all for whatever reasons (YES, It really does happen). Which really really sucks. But there’s nothing you can do about it. What would you do? Launch a complaint with the Ministry of Manpower? In the time you take to deal with all the paperwork and blah blah blah, you could’ve spent the time on another project. Time is money when you’re a freelancer, and you’re not going to waste it filling up reports. Because after all that, what are the chances that you’ll really get the money? And in time to pay the bills?

Some people might think that freelancers charge exorbitant prices so, hey, what are we complaining about? We earn loads for one project alone, right?

WRONG. You’re not just paying for our time, hun. You’re paying for the electricity we’re using, our computers, our medical, our dental, our rent, our food, our transport. Without all the above, we would not be around to offer you the services that you require. I’m not saying that we are amazing human beings without whom you will die; I’m just saying, please understand. This is our livelihood. We need to make a living.

Then comes people who charge ridiculously low prices for the same kind of work you do. I was once offered $35 to do a 400-word story, which required me to interview someone. Whut. Who would accept such prices? But people do accept! If not, how would these clients get away with quoting such low prices.

I’ve heard of web designers who charge $100 for an entire website. I don’t even.

It’s frustrating because these people are spoiling the market for the rest of us who depend on freelance jobs to survive. And the thing is clients don’t always recognise good work from bad work. A client’s opinion of good copy, is almost never the same as a professional editor’s opinion of good copy. So it’s easy for them to think some kid who accepts $35 for a story is just as good as someone with 30 years of experience.

And if you think, “Well, that’s not the kind of client you’d want to work with anyway.” Once again, WRONG.

Money is money is money.

Creative work is really easy to underestimate. Because those who aren’t in the industry often don’t recognise good work when they see it. Worse, they think that anyone can do what we do. And they always always underestimate the time we take to do it.

Peggy surmises it beautifully:

Peggy-Madmen Peggy-Madmen2 Peggy-Madmen3

3. Working at home isn’t all that it’s cut out to be

Well, you do get to save on transport costs. But yeah. It’s not that great. Your home, your sanctuary IS RUINED. The line is so blurred between work and relaxation that your mind just feels all messed up. I feel like working when I’m chilling but I’m always temped to chill when I work.

It takes a lot of self-discipline, which I think I may not have.

I’ve never missed a deadline. But still. You never feel quite in the zone. When you’re working, it feels like you’re not 100% at it. BUT when you’re relaxing, you’ll still be at 50% work mode, like checking your emails all the time anyway because you’re just so used to that.

You’re never 100% in working mode. And you’re never 100% at chill mode. And that sucks :(

When deadlines are tight, it’s pretty normal for me to work on my bed til wee hours of the morning, put my laptop aside to sleep, then wake up in the morning and reach over to the side to grab my laptop. And that’s how my work day begins. It just goes on and on and on.

The whole working in bed kind of thing is really what I mean by blurring the lines between work and leisure. Sure, it can be pretty cool working in bed, but then somehow, soon after, you start thinking about work even when you’re in bed. And it just feels like you can never get to sleep anymore.

4. No one takes you seriously

Because it’s not a “real job”. You spend your time at home so people think you’re having the time of your life. But you’re not. You’re actually pulling out your own hair trying to meet deadlines and get clients so you can pay your credit card bills at the end of the mouth. AND YOU HAVE TO SWEEP UP YOUR OWN HAIR AFTER THAT.

But yeah. People are always like “Hey, let’s meet up, you’ve got nothing to do anyway right?” Or like “Hey could you help me with this this this because you’re so free. The rest of us are stuck at work all day. But you’re not!”

No. I am not free. I am freaking out trying to pay my bills, satisfy my clients, gain new clients, maintain current clients, make sure I have enough food in the house for my lunches because I don’t have time to go out for lunch – do you really want me to go on?

Another sucky thing is the way people raise their eyebrow whenever you say “I’m a freelance writer.” People think that the word “freelance” is just an excuse to make it look like you’re doing work when you’re actually just lying in bed all day. If I am, it’s because I haven’t even had time to get up and shower, you judgemental freak! *ahem* Moving on..

5. It really isn’t a real job :(

Not in the technical sense. We do earn money, it’s hard work just like any job is. But you get no medical benefits, no bonuses, no paid leave, no sick days, no CPF and no fun colleagues to hang out with.

It’s just you, your laptop, and your unpaid bills :(



  1. I’m just starting out freelancing myself, and it’s certainly a different world! Enjoyed your comments :-)

    1. Haha thanks! Freelancing’s a tough tough world! But I guess nothing in life is easy heh.

  2. […] I’ve written so much that the idea of gathering my thoughts yet again to churn out another few hundred words for this blog is kind of nauseating. Let’s add that to the list of Freelancer Woes. […]

  3. wishing you happiness in your aspiration to create and make a living!

    1. That’s very kind. Cheers!

  4. The uncertainty of freelancing can be difficult, but there’s ups and downs in every job, if you love writing, keep at it!

    1. Thank you! I will :)

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