The F’ing* Truth: The Good and the Bad of Freelancing

*Short for freelancing. Geeze, what were you thinking?

By Megan Lillick

A big perk of being a freelancer is in the name. So is its downfall. And I’m not talking about Shakespearean tragic flaws here.

Nor am I alluding to the ‘lancer’ half of the compound, silly! Although sometimes it feels like I’m a soldier going to battle for more clients, and my lance is my sales prose, selling my expertise, services and self worth. And then there’s my horse. Let’s call him Petey F. Invoice. He’s what keeps me going.

Free is the compound in question, the one that most people get stuck on. In fact, freelancing reminds me of one of my favorite childhood books, That’s Good! That’s Bad! by Margery Cuyler. There’s quite a lot of [free]dom that comes with the position. That’s good! And also a lot of free work. That’s bad! Don’t get me wrong, pro bono work is always nice to offer when it’s a cause you believe in. Plus it’s good karma ;), so that’s good! But what I mean about free work, specifically, is all the time you put into marketing your freelance services, all the networking, warm email sending and invoicing. All that, my friend, you’re not paid for. And that, that’s bad!

Thanks to freelancing freedom, I’m free from alarm clock setting; uniform or dress code wearing (I can wear my pajamas all day, if I want to, and sometimes I do!); being ball-and-chained to a desk; working a nine to five, ten to six or an eleven to seven (since, let’s face it, we live in Berlin); a micromanaging boss; office etiquette and politics; and silly acronyms like KPIs, which are the bane to your manager's existence when it comes to one-on-one sessions. That’s all good and fine and dandy!

But on the contrary, I’m free from a regular paycheck; covered health insurance; paid time off; other company benefits like a fully stocked fridge of Fritz-Kolas and Club Mates, beer on tap for Feierabend, catered lunches (some companies actually do this, and five days a week, I have you not!), free German classes, discounts on a transport pass and Urban Sports Club membership; and all around stability, basically. That’s all unfortunate and bad!

As a freelancer, I love that I am my own lady boss and can make up my own schedule. Sure I could be stricter with myself, out on the grounds lancing for new clients. And my day could be more structured, but what’s fun about that? I love that I can run errands on a weekday between 10am and 4pm. The shopping aisles are vacant so there’s no competition for the only two ready-to-eat avocados in the bunch. And the checkout lines are lack thereof, so I’m out in a jiffy. No time is wasted if I’m on a deadline. When I’m not busy on a client project or need to work off writer’s block, I’ll pop into a mid-afternoon yoga class. And guess what? Everyone’s there, and they’re all likely freelancers doing the same thing: seeking inspo from the good vibes; taking a work break; or just starting their day, because remember, we freelancers don’t need to wake up to those horrendous sirens called alarm clock.

Everytime I zip through a store’s checkout, lay in savasana or in my bed for a cat nap (with my cat), send out a well-deserved invoice, lance a new fun client or project, I’m reminded of the good of freelancing. I realize I chose this freelance career for the good, not the bad. And for me, the good far outweighs the bad.

Tomorrow you can find me waking up naturally with the sun, making myself a cup of coffee to savor on the porch in peace before getting down to my freelance biz. And I’ll be smiling. Because I’ll be thinking about that avocado sandwich I’ll be having for lunch, and my favorite midday yoga sesh I’ll be attending.

Ready to join the freelance movement? Do it legally.

So now that you’ve learned the honest truth of what it takes to be a freelancer, and if you’re like me and think the good outweighs the bad, let me help get you started. The below is the have-to-haves in order to do it legally:

  • A freelance visa. Are you a non-EU citizen? Then you’ll need to get one first and foremost, otherwise you can get to the below points straight away.

  • A tax number for your freelancing business. To get this, you'll need to fill out the ‘Fragebogen zur steuerlichen erfassung’ (just Google this to download the pdf). Then, send it to your tax office.

  • At least two clients.

  • Health Insurance.

  • VAT to charge. If you make over a certain threshold, you don’t need it. Speak to your tax advisor for more specifics on this.

  • Receipt organization. When it comes to tax time, you have all the paperwork needed to file.

For expert advice on all the logistics on what it takes to be a freelancer, we highly recommend you seek professional advice from Expath. They offer one-on-one coaching sessions and even workshops to make sure you’ve got your i’s dotted, t’s crossed and your lancing horse, Petey F. Invoice, outfitted perfectly.

It may seems like a lot. But if you’re diligent enough, you can do it. Be a part of the good of Berlin’s growing freelancing scene. And always remember you have us here at Clustered to help. We’re always sharing freelance-focused networking events on our newsletter and social channels. You can also sign up to be a part of our beta product (an app that helps you build meaningful business relationships) and get early access when we launch the Beta!