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Freelancing is “as demanding as 2 to 3 jobs,” says Nivedita Ramesh, who has busted a few myths for those who think that it’s a cushy, fun life chilling with her baby.
It’s like a job minus the politics and the obligation to go to office everyday.
Fact: It’s not ‘like a job’, it’s way more. And going to the office everyday is the least of all the obligations that a freelancer is freed from. What they certainly don’t have is a nice, steady, monthly salary is at the top of the list, closely followed by a fancy title that gives social credence, free gifts during Diwali, and the arrogance to want to board a plane even after check in counters close.
A freelancer gets compensated for all their effort, unlike in a job where you slog like a donkey and get paid peanuts.
Fact: Just like a full time job, freelancing is about your ability to negotiate a good pay, strong communication skills to set the terms with a client, and clarity of thought on the kind of work to take on. Every new client is like a new job, complete with acing the interview, negotiating the salary and proving yourself as of yesterday.
Freelancing is a good career choice mostly for mothers, housewives, and basically all women.
Fact: I had the privilege to work with a freelancer who was a guy and was very good at what he was doing. With a combination of shrewd networking, gold class full time experience, and a strong set of working rules, he was working whenever he wanted to while earning 3x his last salary. It is lifestyle choice.
The perfect example of work-life balance is a freelancer.
Fact: A fundamental problem with this statement is that it assumes that a sense of internal balance can be obtained from outside forces. I rest my case.
It’s for those who can’t hold down a full time job.
Fact: Whatever the reason for this idiotic opinion to hold fort, it is not true. That’s it.
It doesn’t pay as much as a full time job.
Hallelujah! Finally someone got something right, although this statement is a half truth. Freelancing can, over time, yield more money than a full time job, but not over a steady period like a monthly salary. There will be strong times and lean times and tiding the latter is the key to making it work and staying sane.
We are moving towards a freelancer economy.
I feel that today people are more open to hiring a freelancer to do a job than, say, 10 years ago. This is partly because of the maturity of the Indian industry and partly because of the kind of freelancers now available. They are no longer limited to coders, desginers of websites and photographers. It is now possible to run an entire company only with freelancers, or entire departments, at the very least.
It has been more than 2 years since I started out on my own, taking on part time work or consulting projects of limited duration. During that time I also got my health back on track, had a baby, moved into a new home, furnished it and learnt how to make a crisp dosa and finger licking French Toast.
No, I didn’t do it because I got fired from my job.
I didn’t do it because I couldn’t find another one after I quit; I just didn’t want to. There is a lot of difference.
I did it because I wanted to make a conscious lifestyle change.
I did it because I truly believed that I would be better off on my own than in an office reporting to someone.
I am tired of explaining to people that I am not freelancing to spend more time with my baby. In fact, freelancing makes balancing my life tougher because of the unpredictability of the work. I am not “lucky to get time with the baby” because I am freelancing. I make time. I can just as easily un-make it, and that would probably reflect in an inbox overflowing with projects. Nothing in my life “just happened”. They were all choices, and if I didn’t make them consciously earlier, I am very aware of them now.
Freelancing is NOT a euphemism for being a homemaker / full time mom. Having had to don this mantle for a couple of months when I didn’t have help with my baby, I have complete respect for anyone, man or woman, whose full time job is to manage the house and/or raise the children. It is, in my opinion, equivalent to 2 or 3 demanding full time jobs, and I have held a few of those in my short working life.
Next time someone tells you that they are a freelancer, or consulting, or a single person company, nod thoughtfully and ask them what kind of work they have been doing, and what they like best about being on their own. They are trying to make it work on their own in a world that is pretty set in its assumptions about them. A little empathy will go a long way.
A version of this was first published here.
Image source: shutterstock
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