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What freelancing is not.

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There are a lot of stigmas about what freelancing is like.

Blogs like this one tell you about how to start a freelance business, how to find more freelance clients, and how to get paid more as a freelancer.

And we spend a lot of time talking about what freelancing is.

But recently, Millo has had a lot of visitors who haven’t made the leap to freelancing yet. They’re just exploring the option right now and I feel like it’s only fair that those of us with a little more experience put to rest any myths about what freelancing is. (This list is just a start. Add your own points to the list by leaving a comment.)

So, here we go. What freelancing is not:

Freelancing is not

Freelancing is not passive income.

If you’re looking for passive income (money you make repeatedly from something you do once) then freelancing is not your ticket. As a freelancer you trade hours for money. There’s nothing more opposite from passive income than that. Can designers make passive income? Sure. Here are a few ways. But freelancing, generally speaking, is not a passive endeavor.

Freelancing is not sitting on the beach, sipping margaritas, reading books by Tim Ferriss.

Many aspiring freelancers have this image in their mind that as soon as they break away from their day job, they’re going to be spending most days sitting on a beach somewhere in the Caribbean, sipping some sort of drink with an umbrella in it and watching their bank account fill with cash. I hate to pop your bubble, but I’ve never worked on the beach. Can it be done? Maybe. But do most freelancers do it? We can’t.

Freelancing is not a get-rich-quick scheme.

Just like starting any business, freelancing is tough. It’s not an overnight, turn-key process. It takes sweat, tears, money, and hard work. If you’re looking for a get-rich-quick opportunity, freelancing just isn’t for you.

Freelancing is not easy.


Freelancing is not boss-free.

One of the top reasons people start freelancing is because they can’t stand their boss. Well, I’ve got news for you: freelancing is not a boss-free environment. Do you have a little more control over your day-to-day endeavors, deadlines, etc? Sure. But for every boss you got rid of at your desk job, you probably will pick up a handful more in the form of clients, partners, and employees. Sure, they’re not your boss. They’re not giving the orders. But you’re still accountable to them. And you can’t blow them off any more than you could blow off your day-job boss.

So what is freelancing, then?

Freelancing is definitely, absolutely, undeniably, awesome.

It may not be easy, a quick money-maker, or 100% responsibility-free, but it is invigorating.

And it’s worth the work.

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Written by Preston Lee

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Preston Lee is the founder of Millo where he and his team have been helping freelancers thrive for over a decade. His advice has been featured by Entrepreneur, Inc, Forbes, Adobe, and many more.

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  1. This is interesting “Freelancing is not passive income.” some people don’t understand how complex is become a freelance.

  2. Jim Adams says:

    I’m going to share this post as so many in-house designers ask me how to, where to, am I able to… be a freelancer and I can never succinctly answer it as well as this. I can tell them about the sweat, hard work and tears, the deadlines, what to do when you’re ill, difficult clients, managing your work/life balance, tax laws etc but I always end up wrapping it up with – “But it’s great, do it today”.

    Are we all mad or is it vocational 😉

  3. Anne Myers says:

    Thanks for a great post, Preston. All I can add is that you have to have a caring, tremendously supportive spouse. Working 12-14 hr days on deadline can be stressful to a relationship. Having said this, it’s a fulfilling life.

  4. Chris Green says:

    After slogging my guts out (enjoyably) for over twelve years solo now, I can certainly say that freelancing is 100% the opposite of passive. It is in fact… impassive. There’s a new word.

    As Preston says though, it’s a great life once you work out how to get the right kind of clients on a regular basis.

  5. Well said, Preston! Creatives have to invest time, resources and talents to ‘create’ – to do just that! And we do it because it’s a passion, rather than a means to an end.
    This is one of my favourite blogs and I’m learning a lot from you guys while I’m trying starting out. Thank you!

  6. Hi Preston,

    We’re a Graphic Design studio that’s been up n’ running for the last 10 years. We’re just two partners (me & wife) and after all, we still struggle with every single issue you comment here on Millo. However, we are proud of having made the decision to freelance.
    Freelancing is a long distance run. There were days (and still are and also will be) of lot of sweat. And also tears, and this is no joke. You have to be kinda of iron-casted to stand hard times when you have clients, projects and respect, but the figures just ain’t right due to payment delays, taxes, or legal costs of the studio.
    We still want to make our dream real, and after almost 10 years, every quarter we feel like starting up back again.
    Probably, this is what keep us alive and kicking!
    Don’t stop posting such good stuff!

  7. Preach it!

    But for the record, I have worked on the beach while sipping margaritas. If you’re devoted to freelancing and have a good bit of self-control and self-discipline, get yourself a nice little mobile hotspot and on a stressful day of work, take your laptop and plant yourself at the beach and just enjoy your job.

    It’s not all sunshine, but you can make what you want of it. Just takes discipline and a love for what you do.

  8. Eileen Lonergan says:

    This made me laugh out loud. Great post – spot on.

  9. Andrew Ley says:

    Great little post there Preston. I’m only dipping my toes in the freelance water at the moment and it is a lot of hard work.

    I particularly struggle with the marketing side of things. Putting yourself out there and trying to build a quality reputation is a lengthy process.

    A lot of the stuff on Millo helps though. Keep it coming please!

  10. Jerome T. says:

    Kudos, Preston on bringing some of the realities of freelancing to the spotlight. Yes, freelancing is awesome, invigorating and at times even fun but there are times when it is everything you covered in this post. Freelancing is not for everyone. You’ve got to have strong mental aptitude and be prepared to work harder than you’ve ever worked before!

  11. Hey Preston, could you perhaps elaborate a little on your conclusion paragraph ? I understand the cons of freelancing but don’t understand the as to why it is “is definitely, absolutely, undeniably, awesome.”