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10 myths about freelancing . . . my take on them

Susan Harkins on TechRepublic recently published a very interested article on the 10 myths about freelancing.

Sure, I read these kinds of lists every day of the week, but this article is special because each of the myths is pretty meaty . . . and because she issues a firm opinion on something I never see in print or (e-print).

In this article I’ll address her most interesting myths. The link to Harkins’s article is at the end of this article in a sneaky attempt to entice you through my entire piece.

Her lead-off myth is that freelancers make the big bucks.” She writes that, “I don’t know any freelancers who claim to be much better off than when they were traditionally employed.”

I do know of freelancers whom I believe are much better off than when they were employed. Take famed freelance writer Bob Bly. He’s been self-employed for decades and is a really big deal in the industry. I’d bet he makes much more money (hundreds of thousands more) than he did at his last traditional job.

And I believe there are many other freelancers who regularly exceed their last salary.

But basically, I commend Harkins for recognizing a difficult truth: consistently outearning your last corporate salary (or better yet, your last salary plus a one-third increase to represent benefits) is a big, big deal. It is a tremendous life achievement.

Next, let’s look at her myth number 5: Freelancers are happier because they’re doing what they love.

She writes, “I believe most IT freelancers are in the business because they have strong marketable skills, not because they’re passionate about IT. (Passion and IT shouldn’t even be used together in the same sentence.)”

This myth tormented me for years as I cast about for a specialty that would constantly fulfill me . . . and I haven’t yet totally released it from my fantasies.

My system for developing a freelance / consulting practice recommends going after assignments similar to your last good job rather than your passion and I know there’s readers who disagree. I do concede that if you know what you want to do and it wasn’t part of your last position and you see a paying market for it, go for it.

However, I’m saying that passion has a way of lying low when deadlines approach and aggravating problems arise, no matter what your specialty.

Next, let’s look at myth number 10: You need a web site.

It appears from this single paragraph on a topic she has addressed elsewhere that she used to expect the existence of a website to pull in paying business. The website itself does not accomplish this—you’d need search engine optimization, in-person networking or something else to draw in traffic. (However, Harkins seems like a smart cookie and may be more reasonable on the subject in her other writing and in conducting her own marketing.)

Then there’s another myth on which she’s pretty witty: Freelancers have more freedom. Writes Harkins, “Freelancers may have more freedom to vary their routine a bit. . . . Freelancers make choices. Choices with consequences.”

So true.

Finally, there’s, Freelancers work in their pajamas. Some do, some don’t. To each his own. Whatever. . .

Now here’s the link to the Harkins article:

Originally posted 8-23-11

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