I’m not going to get preachy or anything.
But since I started freelancing over a year ago, I feel like I’ve really woken up to what working life can look like if you’re in charge of your own time.
I think there are two sides to how you can earn a living. One, you can spend your time busting your gut for someone else and get paid a salary or per hour. Or two, you can bust your gut for yourself and take control of your earning potential.
I want to make one thing clear. I don’t work fewer hours as my own boss. I probably work the same amount as what a “full-time” worker does. And there are shitty parts about it (like having to sort your taxes and pension). But in a way, being accountable for all these things makes you a lot more aware of where your time (and money) is going, and more importantly, how to leverage them for your benefit.
Here are the main reasons that I’ll never work a 9–5 job again (and why you should reconsider if your 9–5 life is what you really want).
1. You’re working for somebody else’s dream
And don’t try and convince yourself that you’re not.
Unless you own a stake in the company, you’re an expense on the business owner’s books. Yeah, you might feel “part” of something, and it might feel rewarding… but whose dreams are you really working for?
Sure, you don’t carry any of the risks as a business owner. But unless you have no ambition to own your own business someday, or create something that you can earn a profit from, somebody else will forever be in charge of your working hours and your earning capabilities.
And the real cost is your time… and the fact you’ll have less of it to work on your dreams because you’re too damn busy working for someone else’s.
The difference with freelancing is you have clients. Sure, my work helps my clients achieve their dreams by getting more customers. But we also work together on a level playing field. I like writing and I’m good at it. They appreciate my skills and they know that my business could create assets for theirs.
I’m achieving my dream. They are reaching theirs. It’s a win-win.
2. You get paid for your time — not your achievements
Way back when I had a salary (which feels like a whole other lifetime ago), I was working for a newspaper in South Australia.
I had just left university, so the salary I was given felt like I was rolling in riches.
That was until the initial glee wore off, and I realised I wasn’t going to get paid for writing more articles or working more. In fact, I could churn out more stories than the other journalists in the room and my pay would… stay the same.
This happened a lot in reverse. One of the journalists I used to work with would frequently write the bare minimum needed to get the paper full. But at the end of the week, their paycheck was the same as mine.
Okay. Not great.
But what’s worse is getting paid by the hour.
If you’re a paid by the hour, you literally have to swap your time for income. I know what you’re thinking… but you have to make time to do your work! Yes, as a freelancer, I have to spend time working on projects. But if you’re working on an hourly wage, the only way you can increase your earnings is to sacrifice more of your time.
As a freelancer, you can set your rates per project (my chosen method of billing clients). So, a £300 project might take me 3 hours (or 6 or 7, if I’m a lazy bastard). But either way, I’m in control of my time and my earning potential.
Once you’ve felt that feeling, it’s pretty freaking powerful.
3. You don’t have to ask someone to take a holiday
Asking permission to take time off always felt super strange to me.
You have to write down a date to do something fun and get it approved by your boss. So all that time off that you’ve “earned” as an employee… is still being controlled.
That’s messed up. And I always hated it.
Taking time off as a freelancer isn’t how it looks on social media. It’s not lying about on a beach on a hammock drinking mojitos (which I’m glad about. Nobody likes getting sand in their laptop).
But the most significant difference for me is the day-to-day control I have over my life again.
If I want to get coffee in the morning with a friend and start my freelancing tasks a bit later? Done. If I want to work on the weekend to smash out some work so I can take Monday off for an event? Done. Want to walk my dog in the afternoon because it’s a beautiful day and work in the evening instead? Done.
I think the reality of this hits when you talk to people who are employees and try and make plans, and it’s always met with “I’ll have to check my rota”. It’s always the first thought because, at the end of the day, employees are never really in control of their own time.
4. Once you realise the internet is the marketplace of the future — you’ll never go back
It amazes me the way some people still view making money on the internet.
Even in a world where every business has to have a website to seem legit. Where people spend their days on Facebook and Instagram. Where everyone buys things from clothing to coffee pods online.
People still look at the internet as a big scary place, where you can only make money by filling out surveys in exchange for Amazon gift cards.
The reality is, the internet is the real marketplace of the future. And there’s no stopping it.
And the moment I realised that pitching clients and companies for work on the internet was just like pitching them face-to-face, my fear of finding work vanished. It’s the same schtick: if you can offer a business value, they’re going to hire you. Full stop.
Time is your most precious asset
And you have to be honest with yourself about how much you’ve been valuing your own.
I didn’t write this post to be preachy. If anything, I want to empower people to look beyond “traditional” earning potential and realise the opportunities that are right in front of them on their laptop.
In many ways, the 9–5 schtick or working-per-hour models are so outdated. Our world doesn’t operate on a 9–5 clock, so why is it still one of the only options for employees?
What about if you’re working twice as hard as your coworkers, or achieving massive results for your boss. Does it really make sense that you’re going to get paid the same hourly rate, no matter what?
Food for thought.