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The Other Side of the Coin: The Risks of Being a Freelancer

by Taylor Slattery | May 7, 2020

The Risks of Being a Freelancer

COVID-19 has had a drastic impact on industries all over the world. For the greater part of America, work has come to a standstill. For those already working online, chances are your industry is less affected by this crisis, and you haven’t had to make any major adjustments to continue working. While the rest of the country scrambles to see if remote work is viable for their industry, freelancers carry on as usual.

However, there are two sides to every coin and working as a freelancer doesn’t come without its fair share of risk. By nature, freelance work is not very secure. Sure, once you’ve made a name for yourself and have a list of clients clamoring to get you involved with their next project, it’s smooth sailing. But the journey to reach that point is long and arduous. It can take years if not decades to reach that level.

For the rest of us, who are closer to the start of their careers than the pinnacle, work can be scarce. When you begin your journey as a freelancer, especially if you have no prior experience in the industry, it’s not uncommon to experience periods of drought. It takes a while to build working relationships and a list of clients large enough to provide steady work. Depending on your industry, finding new clients amidst the COVID-19 crisis is likely proving rather difficult.

As a freelancer, an empty inbox can be scary. Without any work on the horizon, whatever you have saved up slowly starts to disappear and the anxiety builds. This can be particularly worrisome for those with families who depend on them. If your household income is suddenly reduced due to your significant other being unable to work, shouldering the burden while being a freelancer can be extremely stressful.

Worse yet, if you were to get sick and be unable to work, you don’t have the benefit of a corporation to lean on during your time of need. You won’t have any vacation or sick time at your disposal. If you stop working, the money stops coming in. Fortunately, thanks to the recently created Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, self-employed individuals qualify as well. If you fall into this category and live in the US, it would be a good idea to look into the unemployment application process in your state.

On the lighter side of things, if you are still able to work right now, you may be facing a new set of challenges. If you share a living space and suddenly have more people at home, it can be harder to concentrate and you might find work taking longer than usual to complete. In addition, if your work requires materials that are no longer readily available, the delay in acquiring them can slow down your workflow and reduce the number of jobs you can take on.

Even outside of a crisis, choosing to work as a freelancer presents its fair share of obstacles. Whether or not these risks are outweighed by the numerous benefits is a decision only you can make.


Taylor is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Taylor is a graphic designer, illustrator, and Design Lead at Weirdsleep.


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