My Friend Tried Going Freelance and Failed. Here's Why

A woman working on her laptop by a window in her home.

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As someone who's worked on a freelance basis for many years, I tend to talk up the benefits of being self-employed. For one thing, I really enjoy getting to set my own schedule and work from wherever I want, whether it's my home office or a cabin I'm renting for a much-needed getaway. And while there are drawbacks to being a freelancer, like not having a steady paycheck and not getting paid time off, I'm willing to deal with those pitfalls for the freedom my setup allows for.

But while being a freelancer works nicely for me, it's definitely not for everyone. My friend learned that the hard way a few years back, and after her experience, she insists she'll never go freelance again.

A change that flopped in a very big way

A few years ago, my friend was tired of having to drag herself into the office day in, day out. And while her kids were old enough at the time to look after themselves -- meaning that childcare costs weren't an issue -- she just plain wanted the option to do her job from home and have more flexibility in her schedule.

Her company had a firm policy that salaried employees had to work out of the office (this was pre-COVID, when remote work wasn't really a thing). But they were willing to offer her an alternate solution -- a position as a freelance contractor.

The solution was mutually beneficial, at first. The company wouldn't have to pay for my friend's benefits, but she'd get the option to cut her hours a bit and work on a schedule that better suited her. And being married, she had access to health insurance through her husband, so that wasn't a big loss.

But once my friend moved over to freelance work, things went south very quickly for one big reason -- she wasn't able to maintain her productivity. There was just something about being in her house that proved distracting.

Sometimes, she'd work a 20-minute break into her schedule to tackle household chores, only to find herself away from her desk for 60 minutes or more at a time. And even when she wasn't puttering around the house, she still found that she got distracted at her desk.

Maybe it was the fact that she was alone in her home with no one looking over her shoulder. But my friend suddenly found herself spending more time on social media and less time producing content -- the job she was hired to do. The result? Her income took a serious hit, to the point where her family risked falling behind on bills and had to tap into their savings to make up for that shortfall.

Self-employment isn't for everyone

Some people are more disciplined and less prone to distraction than others. But if you don't fall into that camp, then freelance work may not be right for you.

My friend learned that the hard way and begged for her old job back. Thankfully, she got it. But she learned a valuable lesson. Staying focused on work when you do your job from home with no one around isn't easy for everyone.

If you're thinking of taking the leap into self-employment, make sure you can trust yourself to actually be productive before swapping a guaranteed paycheck for freelance earnings. While the flexibility to set your own schedule is definitely nice, seeing your income take a serious hit is the exact opposite.

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