I sometimes think that my preferred business model is the one where a kind benefactor gives me enough money to be comfortable, not for a return – just because I’m great. Then I am free to float around the world doing good things of social value ((If you *are* a wealthy benefactor do get in touch, obv.)).
For some people work is actually quite like that. If you have a job which really motivates you, which you think is really worthwhile, which delivers things that you are important then it’s exactly like that ((my job is exactly like this, of course, just in case the boss is reading)). If you are paid a salary, have a contract of employment, paid leave, and even sick leave. This money keeps coming, you can plan, you can get a mortgage. The good things of social value you do are quite disconnected from the money that people send you ((send you)).
Being freelance is NOT like that.
In the world of a freelancer every penny is directly related to the work that you do.
On top of which you have to spend plenty of time not being paid while you convince people to pay you, in the future, for doing some more work for them, which may or may not be of actual value ((see the post on 100 is the magic number which I haven’t actually written yet)). And there is no holiday pay, sick pay, often just no pay.
Accordingly this means that working for free as a freelancer is actually working for negative income. Not only are you not being paid, you are putting off the unpaid work you will need to do in order to get paid in the future.
Working for free as a freelancer sucks.
And yet so many freelancers do it.
They do favours for friends, they do little pieces of work in the hope of getting bigger pieces of work, they blog ((ahem)), they organise events, networking clubs, barcamps, they speak at conferences.
And on each occasion they are not just working for free, they are subsidising someone else. Often from their children’s Christmas present list.
Of course freelancing gives you the freedom and flexibility to do what you want to do ((be what you want to be)). But if a major attraction of the freelance life is to do things of value that no-one will pay you for then you might be better served by getting a different job ((or winning the lottery, see footnote in ”Walking out is awesome and totally a good idea” http://htfaf.com/?p=104)).