The Truth About Freelancing: Dollars and Doubt

Do you want to know the real truth about being a freelancer?
September 24, 2018

Do you want to know the real truth about being a freelancer?

Sure you do.

If you're reading this, then you are either already a freelancer, thinking of becoming a freelancer or you just like to read random blog posts. I'm betting you aren't the latter.

Have you had enough of all the information online telling you how easy it is to live the freelance life? Are you ready for the truth?

If you came here because you wanted to cut through all the hype about freelancing and get to the bottom of things, then you are in the right place.

“Become a successful freelancer and start living the life of your dreams!”

Sound familiar?

It should, because the majority of ads, posts, articles and courses about freelancing want you to believe that freelancing is the answer to a better life. At least a better job!

Much of this content may lead you to think that the freelancing life is just a matter of getting down to business and learning the ropes and “Shazaam!”, you are a freelancer! And while you could end up living the life of your dreams with a successful freelancing career, here's the truth:

Freelancing is hard work. BUT That hard work can pay off. Read on to find out how much. The Truth About Freelance Income Indeed reports that the average salary for freelancers is $22.92. They aren't much for elaborating on specifics, about all we can know for sure is that the numbers are for the United States. Payoneer, on the other hand, produces a yearly report on freelancing based on some deeper research.It's pretty in-depth and contains some revealing findings. You can read the full report here, but I'm going to give you some of the key takeaways. 1. The worldwide average hourly rate charged by freelancers is $19 2. Freelancers with advanced degrees earn more than those without 3. While over 50% of freelancers are under 30, older freelancers earn more 4. Almost half of freelancers have an average work week of 30-50 hours Those statistics don't sound so bad, do they? For our purposes here, we are going to focus on the average hourly rate, but I found that some of the other takeaways were encouraging. After all, between Indeed and Payoneer, we are looking at roughly $21 per hour! Unless you are one of the few who actually has an advanced degree, that's probably better than many “regular” jobs, isn't it? But is it? Let's take a closer look at this $21. First, I'll bet you $22 that the $21 average is for billable hours. That means you could potentially, on average, make $21 for every hour that you bill to a client.

But billable hours are the only hours you get paid for. Those hours you spend on marketing? No pay. The hours you spend searching for clients? No pay. The time you spend expanding your knowledge, learning techniques and researching? You guessed it. No pay. I think you get the idea, don't you? So that $21 may be higher than an hourly rate at many jobs, but those jobs (hopefully!) pay you for every hour you work. I won't even get into how your job as a freelancer offers no paid vacation, no benefits AND how you are responsible for all kinds of taxes and accounting. We'll save that for another time. Discouraged yet? Don't be. Keep in mind that we are only talking averages here. It really is possible to make much more as a freelancer, or at least enough to make a living. As long as you are willing to work hard, learn how to market your services and keep learning, then you have a shot at succeeding. But are you worthy?

The Truth About Being Freelance Worthy

So now you know some averages, a little about who makes how much and some other things to expect as far as money goes. Now we're going to talk about some of the non-financial hurdles every freelancer faces. While income levels are critical for every freelancer, it's often factors other than marketing and billable hours that impact your freelance income. I'm talking about tenacity, discipline, and, yes, self-doubt. Understanding these more “personal” elements of being a freelancer directly affects your income and your ability to put in the time needed to become successful. Are you tenacious? You have to be willing, and able, to face adversity. Because it can come from just about anywhere. Consider this scenario:

Your most recent client suddenly needs some revisions on the project you completed last week, but you are right in the middle of another project. Your “significant other” wants to know how things are coming along and if you think you'll have the mortgage on time. And just for fun, your car won't crank.

All before lunch.

Can you keep the focus and keep pushing forward?

I'm not trying to be negative here; I'm just telling you the truth. If you answered “yes” to the above, then good for you. You're tenacious. If you answered “no,” then that's okay too. You can learn how to be tenacious and create a habit that will get you through some tough times.

Are you disciplined? Maybe you're having a better day than the scenario above. In fact, you have two projects working, a client just paid you, and you actually spent some time marketing this week. Life is good. For now.

Without discipline, you may be feeling pretty good about your recent success and telling yourself you deserve a pat on the back and maybe even a reward!

Stop it. If you're having a day like this, then you should feel good about things, but you should also be clear that next week could bring more of those days where your tenacity gets a workout.

If you have discipline, you get yourself to work on those two projects right NOW and get them turned around as quickly as possible. You focus even more on your marketing and networking, and you brainstorm on how to develop add-on services.

Discipline is easy on famine days, but not so much on feast days.

Thankfully, discipline is a skill that can be learned with practice. Now that you know how important it is to your freelance career, you better start practicing. Now.

Do you ever have self-doubt about your freelancing skills or freelancing in general? If you're anything like me, or just about any other freelancer, then that probably seems like a silly question. Of course you have self-doubts. We already know that the freelancing life can be tough financially and emotionally stressful. Constructive feedback from clients can be sporadic at best, and it's nearly impossible to view your skill level objectively. So how do you know if you are freelance worthy?

  • Are you good enough at what you do?
  • Will you get another client this week?
  • Can your bank account survive the next run of bills?
  • Are you just kidding yourself?
  • Should you get a “real” job after all?
  • Insert your doubt-of-the-day here

Don't tell me you don't recognize those questions! I am a freelancer getting paid to write at this very moment, and I know that I've asked myself at least two of these questions today!

My point here is not to drag you down into the rabbit hole of self-pity and doubt.

My point is that all those doubts and insecurities are just part of the deal. Just knowing that most other freelancers feel this way too has helped me more times than I care to recall. Yet, we all keep plugging away, finding more and more ways to quiet those negative thoughts. We keep working, and marketing, and getting better. Because that's all we can do.

And that's enough. Making money at freelancing is tough. Keeping your mind on the task at hand and not giving in to your doubts can be even tougher. Thankfully, there are plenty of proven ways to develop the thick skin that you're going to need to make it as a freelancer. Stay tuned for more about the truth of freelancing.