Freelancing is great – the flexibility, freedom, autonomy and complete control over your own destiny… right?
That’s certainly what I believed when I started freelancing, and I still do to some degree. However I now realise that as freelancers, we only really simply swap one set of constraints for another.
Want to pay your bills? Make a decent living? Build your reputation? Well then you can’t do whatever you want, because there’s a relatively limited number of paths that you can conceivably follow to achieve these things.
You’re likely to swap your demanding boss for even more demanding clients. You may be even more at the mercy of random market forces. And getting things done in the absence of social pressure can be tricky, no matter how badly you want to.
I was reminded of this when I saw Julien Smith address on his blog how difficult it can be to get things done as a freelancer:
We’re like “Yeah, finally I have time to do what matters to ME,” but then we don’t do it because we think the freedom is what allows for progress. It isn’t.
He’s right. Sometimes the very things we find most constraining about our cubicles are the things that enable us to be most productive. Systems, social pressure and a routine that’s unforgiving of failure may just be what keeps us sharp.
Like everything it’s a trade-off. One set of constraints for another. And both bring freedoms too, in their own unique ways. The real question is, which set of constraints can you most easily live with?