The Allure of Freelancing

The Allure of Freelancing

September is the last month of the year’s third quarter, a good time to take stock of your career before the end of the year creeps by. For those looking for a new job, better get started before the hiring season begins after the year-end bonuses. But for those who are tired of typical 9-to-5 jobs, now is the best time to start thinking of transitioning into freelancing.

There’s a host of freelancing opportunities out there: working as a translator, interpreter, writer, graphic designer, photographer, blogger, vlogger, tutor, you name it. However, if you’re holding on to the thought, it’s always wise to weigh up the pros and cons of freelancing for a living before taking the plunge.

Freelancers manage their own time, setting their own work schedule as long as they can meet the agreed deadlines. I used to be a freelance translator for a few years and can still remember getting long-night sleeps and starting work late in the morning. Never having to deal with the scourge of Bangkok’s rush-hour traffic and I could sneak out to run errands anytime I wanted. I dealt with clients on the go through phone calls and took as many days off as I wanted, taking my work with me if I wanted to.

Being a freelancer is very much similar to being a business owner. The more you work, the more you earn, and you don’t have to share the dough with anyone else. After researching the market, set a rate you’re comfortable with. There may be some out-of-pocket expenses, such as software, hardware, electricity bills, cameras, etc., but after making deductions from these bills, the profit is all yours.

Being a freelancer is such an ideal career for introverts. No office drama, no jostling for a promotion or pay raise, and most of the time, you’ll be working independently. Working  from home, a library, coffeehouse, or a co-working space, can help freelancers steer clear office politics and other unfavorable circumstances. You can mostly deal with clients via email. There is no confrontation and the impact from any argument is substantially less.

One thing people may not realize is that freelancers could  spare some time to learn new things, meet new people and give back to the society. While freelancing, you will have opportunities to take online and onsite classes, or even volunteer at local museums or nonprofit organizations.

The ultimate freedom can become a double-edged sword if you can’t stick to the schedule. Working from home can be difficult for some, as there are so many distractions around the house – long breakfasts and lunches, news on TV, the dirty dishes that need to be washed, and the ever tempting social media. Even disciplined freelancers can find themselves working around the clock, answering emails while watching TV dramas at night. If you’re working from your home base, that’ll always be your office 24/7, so it might be better to go out and use a public library or co-working spaces instead.

Unlike a salaried employee, a freelancer doesn’t always get paid punctually by month’s end. Most payment terms are set by the client, which vary from company to company. Some clients let freelancers wait 30 days while some others can stall payments until 45-60 days after the submission of an invoice. If it’s a project-based assignment or a direct client, freelancers can sometimes get paid faster since they can set up their own payment terms. Nevertheless, they are still the ones bearing the risks, which in a worst-case scenario the customer won’t pay and/or can’t be contacted at all. So before accepting a job, get the contracts in place or insist on a deposit to mitigate the risk.

If you’re not totally an introvert who enjoys working alone at all times, the lack of human connection can become a problem for you. Naturally, human beings are social beings. We can’t deny the fact that some kind of occasional interactions are still necessary, so sparing some free time to socialize may not be a bad idea.

Finding clients and building connections are of paramount importance to keeping the cash coming in. Social media, such as LinkedIn, and other online job search websites are quite handy. You may want to take a marketing class to learn how to advertise your services. If not, jumping head-on into freelancing can be a pain.

All in all, if you’re still not sure whether it is the right time to switch from a 9-to-5 life to an independent professional, you might want to start side-gigging, depending on your interest, talent and skills, to earn some extra money and calculate the likelihood of becoming fully self-employed. But if becoming a freelancer doesn’t work out in the end, it’s never too late to be employed again. The thing is you will never know if you will like being a freelancer or not until you try being one.

Born and raised in Bangkok, J. Pakchuen studied English and translation at Chulalongkorn University. Currently, she lives in Washington, D.C. where she works as a translator, interpreter, writer, and tour guide.