With more than 53 million Americans doing freelance work as of 2015, they now make up 34 percent of the U.S. workforce, according to a 2014 survey by Edelman Berland. So, there’s a chance you too may find yourself considering this career path. After all, the freelance life sounds pretty great: no more cubicles, no boss looking over your shoulder, pants aren’t a requirement if you are working from your bed. But before you go and quit your day job, make yourself aware of these common freelancer struggles (take it from someone who’s lived this life for more than two years already!):
- Your parents think you’re out of your mind.
Our parents are from a different generation, and when you say “freelance,” you may as well say “I’m selling friendship bracelets in Union Square.” Try to be patient with them—and assure them that you have a plan (offer to lay it out for ’em) and know what you’re doing.
- Your friends assume you wear your pajamas all day.
You will inevitably get a G-chat message from a friend asking you if you are out of your bed and have even gotten dressed today. Now yes, there are some days when no one will see you from the waist down, but inevitably most freelancers do get dressed (and yes, yoga pants do count as getting dressed).
- …and that you live paycheck to paycheck.
For people who have always worked for one company, it is very hard to imagine that you could work as an independent contractor, much less make a living at it. However, in many industries you can actually make more money as a freelancer than if you were working for one company. Still, some of your friends will assume you are one week away from selling fruit at a gas station.
- You have to deal with clients who don’t pay on time.
You do need to know that—unlike working for a salary, where you get a paycheck once or twice a month like clockwork—you have to hustle for your money in the freelance world. Sometimes you will have to harass people to pay you on time, and there may be weeks where no one pays you and then weeks where everyone pays you at the same time. You just have to be as financially organized as possible.
- Your friends also assume you do yoga for three hours day, in the middle of the day.
If you are going freelance, do get ready for people to ask you if you workout in the middle of the day or go to movies or sit on a bench and feed birds. Yes, making your own schedule is a perk of freelancing, and you may be able to do some things during the day that people in an office can’t, but it is probably because you started working earlier, or plan to work later, or on weekends.
- Your taxes are scary.
Be prepared to get professional help with your taxes—because they are going to be a tad complex, and you should not do them yourself. (I repeat, you should not do them yourself.) What you can do? Keep track of your expenses (especially if you work from home). It’ll help you big-time come April.
- A coffee shop will become your second home.
Expect people to ask which trendy coffee shop you work in, and that they will often imagine you sitting there in a striped tee, sipping on a cappuccino, staring out a window (for some reason you are French in this fantasy). Yes, freelancers do work in coffee shops often, but they are usually the ones with their heads down, working tirelessly, and not staring out the window. (PS: According to The Economist, freelancers work longer hours than full-time employees—it comes out to around 6 percent more hours per week.)
- It can be a little lonely.
Though there are days when you don’t think you can stand being in an office full of coworkers, believe it or not, you do start to miss having people around. This will result in you chatting up baristas, store clerks, and dogs on the street more than you ever thought you would.
- You are your own boss.
This can sound great because, well, you’re your own boss. On the other hand, YOU ARE YOUR OWN BOSS. You are responsible for adhering to deadlines, the final product, any tools and resources you need, finding health insurance, and, you know, your income! That is a lot of pressure!