As an extrovert, I have found that the hardest part about freelancing is being alone.
This may not seem like much of a revelation, but as someone who has always been proud to be an independent worker and self-motivator, this came as a shock to me.
Being independent is, of course, a very important aspect of working for yourself. But what makes it different from working for a company is that you have no team, no daily motivator other than yourself.
Freelancing: A Team of One
With almost every project I receive, I think to myself “What if the company did this instead?” or “If I include these elements in the graphic, it can be used all these ways throughout their marketing efforts!” or “Didn’t someone tell them that their logo doesn’t translate well in black-and-white?”
But that’s not my job as a freelancer. My job is to be a specialized outsider. My job is not to be part of the team. The company and their work will continue on without me once my project is finished.
That’s hard for me.
I want to give everything I can to a client because I want them to succeed. It doesn’t help either of us if their business isn’t the best it can be, right?
But I’m not supposed to do or be everything for them. It’s not what I’m hired for.
Setting Boundaries and Limits for Yourself
That mindset – it’s not my job – is a toxic way to work when part of a company. As an employee, you may be expected to do more than what was explicitly described in the job posting.
And why not? You’re part of a team, and sometimes the pitcher has to cover home plate to make the play.
But not as a freelancer. As a freelancer, that’s how you can get taken advantage of.
You are hired to create graphics for an annual report, but maybe the client also needs a photo or two to be edited. You’re already using Photoshop, so why not? Or maybe you are formatting the layout, and you notice a couple typos in their copy. It’s easy enough to just swap “they’re” for “their,” or to highlight the extra “s” at the end of a word for your client to review. Why should you allow for these errors?
But that’s how your work takes a wrong turn. You overreach into aspects of the project that aren’t your responsibility. You take it upon yourself to “fix” or “help” when you haven’t been asked. Or if you have been asked, you comply, because for whatever reason, it seems like a worse outcome to say no.
As a freelancer, you are hired as an outsider to complete a specific task. If another task requested, then you accept it only if the client agrees to pay for it. Alternatively, you discuss these options upfront so that an appropriate rate can be determined.
Often it seems the best outcome for everyone is to stay in your lane. As a freelancer, you’re the base runner that subs in for the player with a bad knee so that you can score the run. It’s a limited yet important job for the team.
And that’s OK. As long as you do your part and do it well, you can (and will) help the business achieve its goals.