30+ Things You Have to Know about being a Freelancer

Wanting to be a freelancer? – there are many things you need to be aware of. In this article I will list many things for you to think through and consider before jumping into the freelance business. I hope this list will be a valuable tool for you to evaluate the current situation and being prepared for possible challenges along the way.

It’s hard work

Picture by Zsuzsanna Kilian

If anyone tell you otherwise, they’re wrong. It’s that simple. So if you’re looking for an easy option to a normal day job, freelancing is not for you.

You won’t be rich in a day or two

You can be 100% sure that going over to freelancing wont make you rich overnight. There are possibilities of making a decent living, yes, but it will take hard work over time.

Most people can’t make a living from freelancing right away

If you start freelancing thinking that it will give you a good paycheck from week one, that’s very unlikely. Because of this, my tip is to consider combining it with either a part-time job to begin with, a loan of some kind or the best option – that you have savings you can live from for a while. If you are able to live from the first paycheck you get, then good for you – but it’s very rare.

Working harder than a regular employee to receive the same results

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When you freelance you will have to consider many different aspects of everything you do. This means extra work and extra hours to output the same amount of work that you’d do at a normal job.

You have to be your own boss

As wonderful as it may sound to work alone, it means you will have to do the job your boss did before, and more. You will have to be a bit hard on yourself at times to make sure that things get done the right ways and to the right times.

No one will kick you out of bed in the mornings

Picture by Diego Jaimovich

As mentioned, you will have to be your own boss. This also means that no one will kick you out of bed in the morning. You will need discipline and still continue to get up early to start doing your daily tasks – just as you would have done when you had to go to your normal workplace. This is a point that quickly will show if you have the required backbone to deal with it. Many wannabe freelancer fall out of it already here.

You have to stay on top of every financial matter

Even if you haven’t had to deal with any financial stuff before, you will have to now. Obviously you could hire someone to help out with this, but that costs money. So at least in the beginning you should aim to do as much as possible of this yourself. Not only should you do this to save money, but also to keep on top of things. You want to know what everything costs to make good calculations of how much you have to earn to be able to pay your bills and also make a profit that you can live from.

It takes hard work to gain a reputation

Being a freelancer, and a new freelancer, your name won’t immediately have the same ring to it as a company name. This means that it’s not likely clients will come running to you. You will have to gain a good reputation through hard work in order for them to choose you in the future.

Every single client counts more

Picture by Barunpatro

For a multimillion dollar company, you could say that a single client doesn’t necessarily mean everything. For you as a freelancer though, every client counts. Remember this when you take on new projects and treat them thereafter. One client more or less can mean the difference between failure and success – every single month.

You have to save for rainy days

Picture by Jakub Krechowicz

To save for slow times means a lot. When you’re a regular employee you know that your paycheck comes at given dates and how much you will get paid. Being a freelancer is completely different. If you don’t have any money in the bank in month with few paid projects, this could mean the end of your freelancing career.

You won’t automatically be insured (for injuries, sickness and so on)

Depending on your region/country you will have to check out what kinds of insurance you can/should have. When you’re an employee, the company you work for have to have some sort of insurance that makes sure you get paid almost no matter what happens. Being a freelancer this responsibility falls on yourself. Different countries have different options, so make sure to check this out BEFORE you start-up.

You need somewhere to work from

Picture by Wilton Rodrigues

When you’re employed somewhere, you know where to go to work. You don’t have to pay for electricity, phone bills or furniture. Now though, you will have to consider these things. Before you start-up you need to think through where you will be working from to make sure you can actually afford it. A home office or some sort of office collaboration can many times be the cheaper solutions to begin with.

It can be hard to set the limit between work and hobby

If you’re going for working freelance, one of the reasons for doing this will quite likely be that you will be able to do what you love. This means that you sometimes will be doing work-related things very many hours of each day. This can mean many challenges, remember to try not to get burned out..

YOU have to pay for repairs

When something gets broken, you can’t go to your boss to get it fixed. You will have to do whatever it takes to get it fixed, and most importantly be able to pay for it.

YOU have to pay for new equipment

Picture by Zebra31

Just like with repairs, you will also have to be able to pay for new equipment when it’s needed. In some cases insurances could cover things that can’t be properly repaired but don’t count on it.

The first 3-6 months will be REALLY hard

At least the 3-6 first months will be extra hard. Not only do you have to adjust to a completely new way of working and thinking – but you need to get a base of clients that have work for you to do. You have to be prepared, both mentally and financially.

At times you’ll be at work 24/7

Picture by Manu Mohan

When you are a freelancer YOU ar your business. This means that if something doesn’t get finished within the regular work hours you’ve set, YOU will be the one that needs to step in and get it done in time. Sometimes this could mean that you for days can be working almost 24/7.

You have to always think ahead

When you’re a regular employee, someone else usually does the planning. Freelancing you have to make plans ahead all the time to make sure to get enough time for reaching deadlines.

You will have to do things you don’t like

Picture by Steve Ford Elliott

You probably choose your freelance career to be doing something you love. This doesn’t mean that you will always be doing only fun things. Every now and then you will have to do projects you find extra challenging, or sometimes even static and boring to make ends meet.

You will have to deal with difficult clients

We are all different. When you freelance you are always the one being in touch with every single client and they are also very different in personalities and in how they prefer to get things done. Not everyone will like you and vice versa, that’s just the way it is. Try to deal with that as smoothly as possible.

You have to think through what you say (and don’t)

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You are your own business’ face outwards. This means that you will more than ever before be having to think through things before you say them. Remember that a single sentence said without being thought of can possibly ruin contracts and have you lose valuable income.

Prepare to work longer hours for less pay…for a long time

Picture by Nick Colomb

When you work for yourself you will see that you many times get less paid for every actual hour worked. This is because clients pay for what you do for them and not for your own accounting and planning. Thankfully though, you will be able to adjust your rates to fit this over time. But in the beginning it will be hard. So don’t give up right away.

All markets have ups and downs

Depending on your niche/market you will experience some ups and downs due to changes in the market. This isn’t anything you can do much about other than actually being prepared as good as possible.

Not all people understand that freelancing actually is hard work

Don’t expect everyone to understand what it’s like to do your work. Many new freelancers experience communication problems with family and friends who think freelancing is easy money and little work. It can also many times be hard for them to understand when you’re working and not. Make sure to do all you can to be prepared for this.

There are many laws/rules you have to read up on

Picture by Kristian Risager Larsen

It’s rarely as easy as just deciding what you want to do with your business and starting to do it. In most countries there are rules and regulations on many aspects of various businesses. You have to figure out what will apply to you so that you can do things they way they’re supposed to be done.

Taxes and VAT can have special rules in your country, make sure you know them!

Just as with all other rules and regulations there are rules for how to pay taxes and more. If you don’t know these you could be in for a very expensive surprise. This could eventually cost you your business.

You always need to have a plan B

Picture by Flaviu Lupoian

What many times separates the best from the rest, is the ability to adapt to challenges. This means that you have to keep a plan B ready at all times. What will you spend time on when there are slow days? What will you do if the client changes his mind about something in the last-minute and how will you be able to catch up lost hours if you get sick?

Slow times don’t mean less work, it often means more

If you have a day or three without paid projects, this definitely doesn’t mean that you can just sit back and relax. These are the days when you should do various other tasks, – both in order to get new clients and to take care of your own business. If you take advantage of these days it can mean an ocean of difference when the new projects start coming in again.

There are always many competitors

Picture by Gabriella Fabbri

When you enter the freelance world, you will quickly see that your competitors are many. This means that you can’t slack and expect for clients to stick to you. You always have to do your best and then some to be able to compete with everyone else.

You have to be able to make adjustments fast

Clients can require last-minute changes, meetings sometimes have to be rescheduled, you or the client can get sick for a few days. The options are many and you have to be able to adjust fast to make it.

Being a freelancer can be very expensive

As you probably understand from all these points, Freelancing can be quite expensive at times.

You will make more each hour, but also have more expenses

Picture by Sephen Hyun

Its easy math, but not always easy to remember. The bill your clients pay will equal a higher price each hour compared to what you get paid as a regular employee. Remember though, that this is supposed to cover for all your expenses.

You will have to say NO to some business opportunities

The ability to say No can prove to be a very important thing for you, or you will work 24/7 still not being able to finish everything. This will affect the quality of your work, your physical and mental health and your clients.

You will have to say NO to personal projects at times

Picture by StillSearc

If something didn’t go according to plan and someone need to put in extra work last-minute to get something finished, that person would be you. This means that you will have to say No to many other things sometimes, that’s the hard reality of being a freelancer.


This article wasn’t meant to scare you off, but to have you realise that making it as a freelancer is no easy road to go. You have to make sure you have what it takes and think these things through properly beforehand. It can save you many sleepless nights. I hope these tips can help you get better prepared for what’s ahead, to help you get a succesful and fun career freelancing if you decide to try it out.

It can be very rewarding and also comes with many positive side effects once you succeed. When you’re good at planning your days, you will sometimes be able to take time off to be with your spouse or children when it’s important, plan holidays that fit the rest of the family’s plans and so much more. Just remember to be careful and you could very well be one of those who succeed! :)

Picture by Svilen Milev

We would love to hear your own tips in the comment sections! Good luck!

Hilde Torbjornsen

A girl with passion for design, photography, business planning, freelancing, inspirational art and Photoshop/Illustrator. She runs the website Designer77 and you can follow her on twitter here: @Hildy77

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  1. Cody says

    It was my excitement getting to your site yesterday. I arrived here this day hoping to come across new things. And I was not dissatisfied. Your ideas with new approaches on this subject matter were helpful and a great help to my family. Thank you for creating time to write out these things as well as for sharing your thoughts.

  2. says

    Here’s one you might not have thought of: Guilt, especially in the beginning phases when your work doesn’t bring in much money. It can be hard for a spouse to accept that all this effort is going to pay off “someday”. I just need to work harder to bring that day closer, quicker.

  3. Gilly Colquette says

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  4. Paul Dickson says

    I have not read such interesting articles, interesting blog, worth visiting certainly recommend to others.

  5. arjay says

    great article especially the security things like regular pay day if you’re in a normal job(you expect your salary pay period) and benefits, hmo, insurance. compare to freelance where “no finished/tested work, no pay”.

  6. Mark says

    This is really more effective for life span take on the concept. I never thought of it that way.

  7. Allen says

    I really want to become a free lancer but I don’t know where to start. Hope you can help me guys.

  8. nikki says

    Amazing Article!!!!
    Working as a freelance designer, I have gone through all of them :) …

  9. Ramakrishna says

    This is very good and I want to freelancer for web desinging… it is very help full for me.

  10. Sachin Gupta says

    Very well written article Hide… Its certain that freelancing is not that easy as it looks like from outside. You have to devote long hours working on tedious tasks. I used to work 16+ hours a day when I started. But, once you are settled down, you will find yourself in better position if you can organize the work properly.

  11. Pierre says


    Great post. I think you have covered it all. Like most things in life, there are advantages and disadvantages. You just have to make sure you enjoy what you do. It’s also important that you be a self started, things don’t get done unless you take action.

  12. says

    the word FREElance says it all, you tend to do a lot of free things. All in all freelancing should always be done with another source of income. I do club security on the weekends, not only do I get paid $120 per night but it’s a good place to hand out business cards. I’ve picked up many clients that way.

  13. Aamnah Akram says

    true.. freelancing is hard at times, and people not realizing it makes it harder..
    A very good sum up though. i wanted to share this on facebook, but there’s no share button??!

  14. says

    This is a great article for anyone new to freelancing, such as myself. I can especially relate to the point about family and friends not understanding that freelancing really is work.

  15. says

    I’ve been freelancing for a little while now and so many of these are spot on especially working long hours for low pay when you first begin.

    Getting started is the hardest part especially finding clients in the beginning and covering your expenses without burning out. However, once you can get into the groove of things, it all becomes easier each following day – keep at it!

  16. says

    Very nice article about freelancing. It was very long too. It is no wonder you attract so many subscribers.

    Sometimes the truth about freelancing hurts. New people think that it is going to be easy money. They don’t realize how much real work is involved.

    It definitely pays to have friends in this business. Without friends I think this business is a lot harder.

    It also pays to be extremely dependable. I have found that a good employer is willing to pay extra for dependable people. I guess most people in this kind of work are inherently undependable.

  17. Ted says

    Every single one of these items has been true for me!! Although it’s still hard work, I continue to welcome the challenge.

    • Hilde says

      Thanks for your reply Ted!
      Yeah, just keep working hard and I am sure it will get sorted eventually. Even though it’s hard work, and many times for a long time, it is usually worth it in the end. The pro’s of freelancing are many too!
      Wishing you the best of luck! :)

  18. Brad says

    I think it’s great to point out many of these “negative” things about being a freelancer. People who are thinking about freelancing need to hear them. But, not all of them are true all the time.

    I’ve been freelancing for almost 3 years now and _don’t_ work 24/7, never have. I work less hours for more money than any other job, and have less stress.

    So, there can be huge benefits to freelancing as well, especially if you plan well (long-term and day-to-day) and work smart.

    • Hilde says

      Thanks for your feedback Brad! Yeah I agree, these things have to be heard to make sure people make the best out of the situation and are prepared for what will most likely be the case.
      Its also true that all these things dont necessarily have to happen to everyone. Its great to hear that you have such success freelancing as well! :D

      Good luck in the future and thanks for commenting! :)

  19. Laura says

    This is a really good article. Hits a lot of key points especially about competition and self motivation. I am just starting out as a freelancer and keep a part time job that pays majority of the bills. I hope any other freelancer out there does not give up hope so soon. It takes quite a bit of time to get noticed in the art world, (look back at the story of Pixar for example), so I just keep plugging away until I get that “big break,” I’m hoping for :]

    • Hilde says

      Hey Laura!
      Im very happy you enjoyed this article. It’s true what you say, it usually takes some time to get noticed out there. But if you have the passion and work hard, it usually pays off well in the end!

      Wishing you the best of luck in freelancing! :)

  20. says

    Great article and only too true, especially the finance and getting yourself known. I’m a freelance and I also have a full time job this helps keep my business going and hard work gradually pays off. Everything comes with experience and I absolutely agree with the time-management statement/learn to say ‘no’. All great points.

    • Hilde says

      Thanks for your positive feedback, very much appreciated. Happy to hear you enjoyed the read :)

    • Hilde says

      Great to hear that this will be helpful for you!
      Wishing you the best of luck! :)

  21. nikos lianeris says

    you are very right!I agree with everything you wrote!As a freelancer web designer/developer wannabe I must admit that being a freelancer needs really REALLY hard work and be really patient!But if you are determined to “walk the path” there will be many and great rewards…

    • Hilde says

      Thank you so much for the positive feedback, Nikos! :)
      And yes, it’s important to remember that if you work hard and plan well you can have a great outcome too!

    • Hilde says

      Its good if this article can be useful for you :)
      Wishing you the best of luck!
      PS! Remember though, that if you are determined to work hard the rewards can be many :)

  22. says

    Great article for the most part. Definitely worth a bookmark in my opinion for those considering making the freelance jump. Thanks!

  23. Abdullah Al Mamun says

    Nice article ! Lot of things to think twice…….Thanks.

    • Hilde says

      Thanks alot Abdullah :)
      Very happy to hear that you enjoyed the article!

  24. Rob T says

    I think it is an important step for any freelance to make their own website for their services. Not only is this helpful for the obvious reasons, but will help get you into more serious ventures with your freelance efforts.

    • Hilde says

      Hi Rob!
      Thanks for your feedback, and yes I agree with you. Getting an own website is definitely important in many ways! :)

  25. says

    Thanks for this article, it’s nice to have it all set out in one place, and I think a lot of your points were encouraging rather than scary. I totally agree that you’ll get out of it what you put in, and it’s nice to see and speak to other designers now and then for a bit of moral support. :)

  26. weberica says

    very good article, but it all depends where and when you live. Around me people are loosing their jobs, or work for minimal wages 6-7 days a week, or don’t get payed for their work without any protection from union or the low. Being freelancer in such country in such times is the best choice you can make :)) Greetings from Croatia

    • Hilde says

      Thanks a lot for your input! :)
      Yes, I see that it can all depend on where you live and which opportunities you have to begin with. Its about seeing possibilities and there can sure be a lot of them in freelancing for those who work hard! :) Good point!

    • Jovan says

      It’s similar for me in Serbia!
      There is practically no competition and everyone is looking for something to be done. People are easily blown away when I suggest a modern design. The only problem is that people aren’t used to paying hundreds of euros/dollars for something like a logotype or thousands for a website design. Also, most of the times, they expect to get a functioning website and not just the design so I often find myself writing websites in my average HTML knowledge which isn’t what I like doing…
      Pozdrav kolega! :)

  27. James says

    Thanks for the article. I am thinking of going freelance and I know I have a lot to consider!

    • Hilde says

      Thanks James! Happy you enjoyed the article.
      Wishing you the best of luck if you decide to go ahead into freelancing! :)

    • Hilde says

      Hi Lee!
      Yeah, finding work can be hard. Its really important to embrace every oppurtunity and have an open mind :)

  28. Cosmin Negoita says

    That’s a very well written article Hilde. Thanks for sharing! I’ll retouch this when I will start freelancing :)

  29. Daniel Miguel says

    Thanks for the tips, I was really needing of something like this to get all my stuff moving on.

    I’m a freelancer since January 18, and it’s being really hard the first 3-6 months!

    It’s really all good tips.

    Greetings from Brazil!

    • Hilde says

      Hi Daniel!
      Thank you so much. Yes, its hard work, especially for the first months.
      But hang in there, there are many good and helpful articles and people out there. The best of luck to you!
      Greetings from Norway ;)

    • Hilde says

      Hi! :) Thanks you so much!
      Yes, many of these points apply to both full-time and part-time freelancers.
      Good luck!

  30. Ram says

    This is everyday experience of a freelancer , an article instead. Yes these are almost negative points but in the same title we can see the positive result, if you plan correctly. Freelancers should die for money for the first 1 year. If it continues in coming days he/she is not a good freelancer that’s not the right profession for him/her. But I can say most of the stunning designs came from freelancers not from any corporates.

  31. says

    Great article! I would have to say that you can get out of it what you put into it. As a photographer, I also have to find ways to build on relationships to grow my opportunities with every client that I work with. For example, senior portraits soon turn into wedding opportunities, commercial clients turn into family portraits opportunities and so on. If there is a way to create an opportunity, do it!

    • Hilde says

      Thanks Daniel! :)
      And yeah I agree with you, one opportunity can quickly turn into another as long as you look for them with an open mind. Great point!