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Freelancing sounds like an exciting alternative to full-time employment.
Whilst "freelancing" doesn't define any one way of working, it often conjures up an idea of a person working with multiple clients at once, on projects they're a deep specialist in, often on a schedule which they define, and no shortage of posts on LinkedIn suggest that working for yourself is a road to fewer hours, bigger paychecks and projects you're passionate about. There are also lots of doomsayers about freelancing - that there's no security, its isolating, its competitive, and you'll endlessly be chasing invoices.
In this series of articles, we're going to try and bust some of the myths around freelancing, so you're better prepared for what the reality is actually like.
One of the key reasons people choose to go freelance is having more control over the work which they do. In employment, there's an expectation that you're given tasks you need to complete, and are required to do them whether you like it or not.
When freelancing, you can turn down projects you don't want to do. Right?
Yes, and no.
The important word here is 'can' - you have the opportunity to choose to turn down or decline projects which you don't feel are right for you, aren't motivating, don't pay enough, don't align with your values, don't interest you, IF you're in a financial position to do so.
The reality of self-employment, especially when you're still establishing yourself, is that you may not be able to afford to turn down projects simply because you're not passionate about it. Often, it might be the difference between being able to pay the bills this month or not.
Should you take every single piece of work you're offered? Absolutely not. It's important to establish some red lines in your work - day rates you'll not drop below, clients or sectors you're unwilling to work with, ways of working which don't align with your boundaries or needs. But equally not every project is always going to be the most exciting, the most motivating, the most amazing opportunity.
Realistically, for most people - you're not going to be passionate about every single project you work on.
There are going to be projects which perhaps you've done something similar to a million times over and could seem boring to you. There are going to be projects which don't feel like they solve meaningful problems in the world. There are going to be clients who you'd not excitedly run to your friends to telli them about.
Establishing a health freelancing practise means balancing out projects which you're passionate about with projects which bring in income, with projects that are useful learning experiences, and projects that perhaps just pay the bills. Indeed, even projects which might not seem interesting can offer different types of value to your career. Meaningful work is a critical pillar of mental health at work - so consistently working on projects which are not motivating or that don't tap into your sense of purpose is going to, over time, lead to issues such as burnout or a feeling of lack of impact or progress.
The goal is to focus on building a sustainable working practise which enables you to choose projects to help you grow over time - financially and professionally, and to have more projects which motivate you and that you can be passionate about than not - but to expect this from day one is unrealistic.
So, are you going to only be working on projects that you're passionate about? That's the goal, but in reality, this might not always be the case.
Whilst it's the aim for all of us, not every project is going to align perfectly with your motivations and desires, and it's likely you'll have to do some work which is not always the most exciting. But you do have more control over what type of work you choose to accept, if you're in a good financial position.
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