Don’t get me wrong freelancing is great but there are some things that really ache about it.
1. Getting paid (on time)
The first fulltime freelance gig I did started towards the end of July 2008: my first freelance payment came two weeks ago (late September 2008). The job was two weeks long, so I started the job, invoiced after two weeks and patiently waited thirty days for payment like a good freelancer. Thirty days came and went with no payment so I got in touch with the accounts department and was greeted with a lie about about how one of my other invoices had the same reference number on it so my invoice would be paid only be paid that week.
Companies pay people to prevent people getting paid. Sound strange? A good accountant keeps as much money in the company as possible because they have to make sure wages and utility bills get paid first. For a relatively insignificant freelancer, getting paid can be an arduous task.
Solution: Make sure you contact the payment department before those thirty days are up and keep the relevant people on their toes.
2. Remembering people’s names / brew requirements
I work onsite (most of the time) and I really like getting to know other people, but it can be really hard remembering the names of the 30 people in each office of 10 clients – let alone trying to remember how they all like their tea/coffee.
Solution: Draw a little desk plan and write people’s name on it and where they sit. Yes, I am a nerd but this really does work.
3. Music (or a lack thereof)
The only thing worse than a musicless office is an office with awful music. I once listened to the soundtrack to karate kid at one place and I’ve spent the last three weeks near constantly listening to the Kings of Leon’s new album – not in itself awful but very tiresome after 3 plays a day.
Solution: This isn’t the 6th form common room so you can’t just commandeer the communal stereo and headphones make you look rude. This is something you have to live with until you feel more comfortable to suggest some musical rotation.
4. Different coding practices
I have a set way of doing things that has made me good at what I do so when you go to a different agency and find they want to you to completely change the way you code it can be a nightmare unless those coding practices make sense and are equally good, if not an improvement on your own.
Solution: If their coding is better than yours, soak it up but, if their code is awful and they force you to lower your standards – you need to educate them on best practice. If they won’t listen to reason, they can’t be helped.
5. A lack of trust
I’ve been refused FTP passwords before and had a Lead Web Developer stand over my shoulder and type in the password onto my machine.
Solution: Don’t work there again.
6. Not being allowed to use my own equipment
If you have good equipment, then I don’t mind if I have to use it – actually I’ll probably enjoy using it, but when you force me to use a 5 year old PC or worse a new PC running Vista with no applications installed then my work may suffer. I have a macBook, please let me use it – I’ve spent a lot of money setting it up so I know it gets the job done.
Solution: Make friends with the IT department and let them play on your macBook once they see you’re not a virus peddling fiend they may let you use your mac.
Working from home (when I do) can be quite lonely. There’s no idle chit-chat between colleagues and the only way to get help on a coding problem is to Google for answers and no-one makes you brews.
Solution: Try to work onsite where possible
8. Trying to appear busy but not too busy
Here’s the big catch22 of freelancing – if you’re too busy (or appear too busy) no new clients can book you but if you don’t appear busy enough then no-one will want to book you either. Often clients want you to drop everything and work for them at a moment’s notice but if you already have bookings that can be really bad for your reputation to simply drop one client for another.
Solution: I haven’t found it yet.
9. A lack of instructions
Sometimes, it’s obvious what you’re supposed to be doing and other times you’ll be asked to get on with X with no clear instruction of what it is you’re actually supposed to be doing or how long it is supposed to take. I’ve finished jobs meant for a full week in under 2 days and I’ve laboured over for a few days that the client thought would only take a few.
Solution: Ask the client what they want exactly and when they want it completed by. You can potentially sound like broken record if you keep asking the same question but needs really must.
10. You don’t get sick pay
Last Friday, I was sick as a dog but I had to go to work. If I get sick in the middle of a freelance gig I’m screwed because I won’t get paid. Luckily, I don’t get ill that often. Although, in the past, I’ve had fulltime jobs that didn’t pay sick pay.
Solution: Don’t get sick
Do you freelance? What do you find are the worst things about it?