Myth Of Freelancing - You Are Your Own Boss
May 31, 2012
I thought a good start when talking about freelancing and running your own business would be a cold shower for all those who fall for the promises and illusions some people came up with in the last few years.
The biggest lie I have ever heard of is that you are your own boss. I cannot think of one that is bigger, more spread or caused so many tears when people realized that this is basically a nice idea but reality is waiting behind the next corner. With a baseball bat. And some friends.
Let us assume you start freelancing or a small business and want it to grow so you can make a living from it without being caught in slavery, err sorry, employment. You found someone who is willing to hire you for a project. This is the point where you first should have understood something. You were hired for a project. What does being hired include? Right, a boss.
You Are The Expert - You Make The Decisions
We just call him "your client". This sounds like you are in control of everything and he has to listen to you. You work really hard, you design, you code, you do whatever you have to do and after some hours, weeks or months you have created something stunning. It is new, it is shiny it will change everything. "Your client" does not like it and requests some changes.
Now there are three possible scenarios and depending on your experience, financial situation, reputation two of them always suck and one sucks less. Actually there is a fourth one but this is an exception of scenario one.
Scenario One: You Explain Why You Are Right
First things first. You are never right. You have a opinion. Since you want to make a living with your business you should be right. While explaining your point you should never use the sentence "you are just wrong, I am right" but this is the topic of another post. (Disclaimer: you can use this sentence after some years of experience or you will end up in scenario two)
This scenario is the one that sucks less. You listen to your client, you try to understand why he wishes some changes and you start working. Not on what your client told you but on the solution your client wants. Always tricky but possible with some experience.
If your client understands why you decided to do things the way you did it is possible that he does not insist to incorporate his wishes. This is scenario four. Just do not believe it will ever happen and be happy when it does.
Scenario Two: You Tell Him He Is Wrong And An Idiot
There are only two reasons to tell this your client. First one: You have enough experience and you know how to say it nicely that he is not pissed. You are actually in scenario one. Second: You are an idiot who just lost a client, gained bad reputation because your ego was bigger and louder than your brain. You know, this thing in your head always telling you to eat some chocolate, drink a coffee and that is also supposed to make business decisions.
You stop working on the project. Your client does not want to see you again and you think you told someone "the truth" about himself. Is it possible that you have forgotten something? You have to send him an invoice. On a scale from "lol" to "niiiiaaarrrggggg" (the sound shredders do when they make confetti out of your bill) how likely will your client pay you without trouble? What do you think?
Now most of you may complain that this will never happen. Well, I have seen people doing exactly this. "If you really want this you are just an idiot". It never ended well.
Scenario Three: You Change Everything
It is your first and only job. You want your client to be happy. You are not sure how to explain your points. Alluring to just do what he wants, isn't it? You should really try scenario one. There is a reason he hired you in the first place. You are supposed to be the expert. You should know why you did something and you should be able to defend your work.
If you really do this and the final product is a shame do yourself a favor and try to make it look like you never were involved. Your portfolio may look a bit empty but this is better than having a Geocities page form 1999 in it.
You Are Your Own Boss
Not listening to your client and doing what you believe is right will likely cause pain. No money, bad reputation, no follow up jobs... There are better ways to start your new career. You need exactly the same social skills, maybe even more, and have to behave like you would as employee.
Working on five projects means you will have five bosses. Okay, now do not panic. I know this is a high number but it gets even worse. Sit down and try to stay calm. Maybe even more if the company is big enough and every manager that once had a drawing lesson in kindergarden believes he is a designer, every janitor that once installed Ubuntu is an administrator and the guy who studied math is a software engineer.
One of the most important skills is communicating with other people. You should learn it pretty fast or you will end in scenario two or three. You do not want to end up in two or three. Really.