Freelancing Is For Suckers

Hierarchy of the Self-EmployedThis is part two of the Hierarchy of the Successfully Self-Employed series.

“Freelancing is for suckers…”

I can still picture the scene clearly. It’s a networking function, with a cash bar. The loudmouth is sitting with a group of people, going on and on about his work.

When I heard the “freelancing is for suckers…” comment, I had to go over to see what this guy was talking about.

I was a freelancer, and I sure as hell was not a sucker.

I listened. I debated. I got pissed off. In the end, I bought him a beer, and we agreed to disagree. He had been a freelancer, but not everyone was like him.

It wasn’t until a few years later that what he was talking about would hit me like a Chuck Norris roundhouse.

freelance pyramid
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Hello, My Name is Tony and I’m a Sucker…

Fast-forward a few years. I’m working on a Web redesign project for a real estate consultant. I had been through about 5 iterations, and he still didn’t like it. It was beautiful. It was the epitome of user friendly.

But apparently it wasn’t bad enough for him. His neighbor made something in FrontPage in a few hours that he liked better. He wasn’t interested in my expertise or my knowledge of good design.

He wanted big fonts, flashing logos, and a colorful background image. He wanted a MySpace page before there was a MySpace.

After 6 weeks of trying to land the project, cutting my price to beat out a competitor, and working like a dog, this was what it came to. I was making about 8 bucks an hour.

Then he said something that made the loudmouth’s freelancing comment come barreling back from the depths of my memory. He said “you’re a vendor, I’m the client. I don’t care what you think, just do it like I ask.” He didn’t want a professional. He wanted a lackey with FrontPage and MS Paint.

A Sucker No More…

I finally realized what the loudmouth at the bar was talking about. He had the same realization years before.

He was doing it just to make ends meet. To make enough to pay bills, and maybe have enough left over for a vacation.

He also said nobody gets rich freelancing.

Here, about 12 years later, I tend to agree. I’ve known a lot of freelancers over the years, and most of them are making the same money they were when I was doing it.

Some have given up and gone back to a regular job.

The saddest part is many of them are awesome at what they do. They have amazing skills and expertise.

Now, here’s an important point of clarification. Not all freelancers feel this way, and of course unlike the loudmouth, I wouldn’t call them suckers. Some like doing work on the side, and really enjoy it. Other have another source of income, and freelancing is a way to make some extra money. The key is to know what you want, and why you’re doing what you do.

But a vast majority are just treading water. Others are doing okay, but really want to make it big, and do more than just make a living. They dream of getting rich from freelancing.

How many freelancers do you know that consistently make well into 6-figures a year?

The problem comes when you have to continually trade your time for money. Eventually you plateau. You run out of time, or hit a ceiling of what you can charge, or both.

Freelancing is a great way to start out, but if you’re just doing it to cover the basic needs, you’ll be scrambling forever to keep up.

There are options though — and I thought I found the perfect solution. Independent contractor.

I’ll talk about that in part three…

Hierarchy of the Successfully Self-Employed Series