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  • Writer's pictureErin Ratliff

Thoughts & Perspectives from A Reluctant Freelancer, Part 1




When life hands you lemons, go freelance.

Like so many, I fell into freelancing accidentally and thus, quite reluctantly. I had actually had fantasized about the freedom and flexibility of being self-employed for years but fought that idea tooth and nail -- clinging to the familiarity and stability of traditional 9-5 employment.


I believe everything in life happens in the right timing and in the right way, but more often than not it's going to be what you planned on. It's going to happen in the way you least expect it.


For me, it was being unexpectedly let go of my comfy marketing agency role in December 2023, just before the holidays. As a single mom who was already financially struggling to make ends meet, this was a devastating and shocking blow, full of many sleepless nights and tear-filled days.


I didn't just want to have an income, I NEEDED an income for survival. I was thrown/thrusted into unemployment amidst a terrible job market and even after applying to dozens of jobs per week, I felt stuck and scared. Finally going on 3 months without a paycheck I had no choice but to figure out how to make money, and quickly.


What they say is true: "Necessity is the mother of Invention, and Desperation is the father of Brilliance.” And when there is a will, there's a way!


I didn't choose the Freelance life, the Freelance life chose me.

I was kicked out of the nest and from there it was sink or swim. I had to learn the ropes of self-employment. I had to learn to not only use my skills, but also to sell myself. This post is just the beginning of my story!


First, what is a Freelancer?

Freelancers are small business owners who operate independently and set their own hours, terms and value.


Other common names for freelancers include...


  • Independent Contractor: A self-employed individual who provides services to a business or individual under a contract. They have control over where, how and when they work and may work for multiple clients simultaneously.

  • Creative/Creator: Individual (writer, marketer, designer, photographer, software engineer, artist) who sells creative skills and outcomes

  • Coach, Consultant or Advisor: An individual with specialized knowledge and specific domain expertise, who sells their perspective and advice and/or solves problems

  • Fractional Officer: Synonymous with "part time"; often used in conjunction with executive leadership roles like CMO

  • Solopreneur: An entrepreneur who building a business fully on their own.

Note: Freelancers may also resonate with the terms Influencer, Founder, or Thought Leader. Every Freelancer is different! It's also ok if you don't want to call yourself a Freelancer at all, thus avoiding any stigmas out there or the pressure to be or do things a certain way.


At the end of the day, your job title doesn't really matter. People just want to hear about how passionate you are about the services you provide! It's much much more important to clearly share WHO you help and the pain/problem you help them resolve. 


Example: Instead of "I am a _____" try... "I help____ escape/avoid/relieve/solve ______ to create ______in their lives and work."


What a Freelancer is Not:

  • An Employee - an individual who is hired by an organization or business to perform specific tasks or roles in exchange for wages or salary.

  • An Agency: A team of people selling creative skills / outcomes

  • "out of work," "broke," "lazy," "hard to work with" or "unemployable"

Need more clarification?


You might be a Freelancer if...

  • you pay all of your own taxes, SSI, health insurance and the like

  • you make more than $600 with a client, and they are legally required to send a 1099 in January.


You might be an Employee if...

  • you completed a W2 form from the IRS upon hiring

  • someone else is responsible for withholding employment taxes, SSI, and any other taxes


Why is this important?

An Independent Contractor/Freelancer is a legal classification that impacts an individual's taxes and employment status with the federal government, state government, and the IRS and State Treasury.


It's also crucial for businesses to ensure compliance with labor laws and tax regulations. Misclassification can lead to legal and financial consequences, including fines, penalties, and potential lawsuits.


In other words, it's not something to take lightly.



In 2022, 60 million Americans performed some kind of freelance work, which represents an increase of three percentage points from the prior year.

What goes into Freelancing?

Being a freelancer is SO much more than just executing professional quality deliverables, outcomes and waiting for the next project or assignment. There is so much that goes on behind the scenes.


A freelance business is like an iceberg – an overwhelming amount of it sits below the surface, unseen to the masses.


Why? Because you're a team of 1 wearing MANY hats every single day. You’re the Director, Manager, Coordinator, Specialist and Assistant. You're the...

  • sales team

  • marketing team

  • finance team

  • operations team

  • legal team

  • IT team

  • HR team

  • admin/support team


You're every role and every department, from top to bottom. All in one human body. No pressure...


Debunking The Myths of Freelancing


Myth: Freelancers have no job security

Truth: Technically speaking, nobody has job security. Anyone can be let go or lose their job at any time, for any reason. With freelancing at least you have a significant heads-up if the business isn't making money, giving you a real chance to pivot or turn things around.


Myth: Freelancing is chilled and relaxed.

Truth:  If freelancing was truly easy, then everyone would be doing it. Social media tends to glamorize entrepreneurship. It doesn't tell you the full story, only curated highlights. Sure, you can choose your own hours, but the work also demands you always be "on" and that you wear many (ALL) hats.


Unless you're on vacation, truly being off the clock as a freelancer is rare. While intensive, focused client work (PR outreach, content creation etc) may only take 4 or 5 hours of the day, your mind is occupied for much longer in research or ideation. There's also the unbillable time where you're drafting emails/proposals or in networking or prospecting. And don't forget the time needed to market your own biz or develop your personal brand.


Some weeks will be more packed than others. Some days are busier than others. Your freelance schedule is yours to create. Whether you want to work 2 hours or 20 hours, that’s up to you based on your individual financial, personal and professional goals.


Like everything in business and life, it's about tradeoffs. There's happiness and fulfillment (AND plenty of challenges) to be found no matter which route you go.


Myth: Freelancing is not a "Real" Job

Truth: Freelancing is 100% a real, legitimate job requiring real work and making real money. Millions of high-achieving people like myself wouldn't be doing it if it wasn't!


Myth: You can make six figure income as a freelancer

Truth: While hitting 6 figures is possible as a freelancer, it is also somewhat rare. That is a huge achievement and career win. But let's also celebrate all the newbies and underdogs who:

  • were brave enough to take the leap and give something a go that some only think about

  • just secured their first client

  • are building a way of working in order to spend more time seeing the world or their loved ones

  • just make enough to feel slightly more "comfortable"

  • are choosing to freelance to improve their mental health and wellbeing.


It's important to avoid comparison to other's progress or success. Freelancing is not a competition. The benchmark of success you set for yourself is the most important one of all. If you’re covering your basics while putting some savings away and enjoying your life with flexibility and freedom, then you're doing better than most. In fact, you're blessed beyond measure.


Myth: Being your own boss is the best.

Truth: This all depends on how much self-discipline and focus you have. While its great to have the opportunity to decide who I work with, how often I work and when, sometimes it can be helpful to have someone else hold you accountable or give you a kick in the butt that you need. This is where you can have your own personal cheerleaders come in (perhaps a partner, friend or family member or someone from your mastermind)


Myth: Everyone should try freelance.

Truth: Not everyone WANTS to go out on their own. Not everyone has the same values, goals, needs or motivators. Your path is worthy, no matter what. Whether you choose entrepreneurship, freelance, or an in-house career, what matters most is that it aligns with what YOU want out of life. Neither path is harder/easier/better/worse – they're just different. For some, freelancing is a temporary solution. For some it's a longterm commitment, a life by design.


Myth: "Just quit your job and start freelancing"

Truth: That's really bad advice. It's not as easy as point A to point B. It can years or even decades to reach the point where you feel comfortable making the move to full-time. In this time you're testing niches, learning the market, creating connections, growing your savings, planning finances, getting business ops and systems in order, building confidence, developing a portfolio and honing your personal and professional brand.

That's a lot of behind-the-scenes work! Remember, there is no rush - you can't rush genius. You can't build trust and experience overnight. So do your best to go slow and part-time while you still have a stable income.


So, what makes a great freelancer?

A great freelancer is a reliable and dependable point-person for your business, helping you optimize productivity, streamline processes, and achieve greater success in your endeavors.


They...

  • bring valuable expertise, efficiency, and flexibility to your projects.

  • deliver high-quality work on time and within budget, helping you meet your goals and deadlines effectively.

  • offer fresh perspectives, innovative solutions and specialized skills for better results

  • offer their full attention, asking good questions and making tailored suggestions

  • do what they say they're going to do... underpromising but overdelivering

  • speak about their own expertise and give guiding advice

  • take charge - adjusting and pivoting approaches as needed

  • charge per project so that the focus is more on the outcome vs hours spent


Building Resilience

If you're a fellow freelancer at the beginning of your journey and you're confused, nervous and worried, please know that's normal.


It takes time (months!) to align and find your stride. It's a process to understand how much more there is to do other than just your on-paper skillset that you're used to.


At the end of the day, being SELF-employed is a lot more empowering than being UN-employed. But it's not without it's challenges and risks.


When you've spent your whole life working to building someone else's dream, and then suddenly asked to build your own it's going to feel uncomfortable. Terrifying, even. But also terrifyingly beautiful.


If you're like me and you’ve had some side hustles brewing behind the scenes for a while now, I see you. If you're like me and you've kept your talents, skills and ideas mostly hidden in the backseat, I see you. If you're like me and you've always felt too afraid and insecure to go all in, I see you.n


Keep showing up every day. I promise, the struggle now will be worth it one day.


When we work hard for something we love it's called passion. When we work hard for something we don't we call it stress.

Wrapping It Up

I am still incredibly new to freelance, I have TONS to learn and a good few mental barriers to overcome, even afterall these YEARS of avoidance and resistance. I know this is going to continue to take a lot of self-discovery, grit and patience, I know there will be losses and hiccups, but with each one I will become stronger and wiser.


Freelancing is not for the faint of heart. It is a journey filled with challenges and triumphs, where each day presents a unique opportunity for growth and self-discovery. This path requires resilience in the face of uncertainty, determination in times of doubt, and perseverance amidst setbacks. This means carving out your niche, honing your craft, and building meaningful connections with clients who value your expertise.


Yet, amidst the challenges lie moments of profound reward and fulfillment. You get the flexibility and freedom in

  • controlling your time

  • being your own boss

  • charting your own course

  • shaping your destiny

  • pursuing your passions

  • defining success on your terms

You also get the thrill of seeing your hard work come to life, knowing that every success is a testament to your dedication and unique talents.  While freelancing is not a one-size-fits-all lifestyle, it may be especially beneficial for creatives, visionaries, empaths and other energy-sensitive souls. It means 100% ownership and control, which is deeply empowering.


At the end of the day, Freelancing isn't just a career. It's a journey of endless possibilities, and a rollercoaster of emotions and experiences. But isn't this what makes life work living? Every day is a different adventure and you're giving it your all.


Cheers to the gig economy, shameless self promotion and trying new things imperfectly but bravely, cringey but courageously! 


Freelancing is Life in Color.

Want to work with a trusted freelancer who embodies integrity, heart and soul? I offer a variety of marketing services to support healers, coaches, and wellness practitioners in our collective mission to serve the greater good? I look forward to connecting soon!


 


Erin Ratliff is a holistic business coach and organic growth & visibility marketer serving energy-sensitive, earth-loving, heart-led soul-preneurs, self-starters, and founders with the mission of personal and planetary healing.


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