The Truth About Freelancing & Inconsistent Income

Is it true that freelancers are plagued by inconsistent income while employees enjoy a superior position with their paychecks?

Are turbulent finances the reality for freelancers?
[Image by: Christopher Jensen]

When people discuss freelancing, they’ll often point out that freelance income is inconsistent.

And I’m like, yeah, I know. Isn’t that awesome?

After giving me a very odd look, then they’ll say something to the effect of, I need a steady income. I’ve got bills to pay.

And I’m like, You probably always will with a steady income. Then, I return the very odd lock.

What is going on with this exchange? Why does it seem like we’re talking on different tracks?

Because there’s a difference between what’s true and a person’s perception of what truth means.

Breaking down consistency

For starters, early in your freelance career, yes, the financial swings can be wild, and the stress and anxiety can be sickening. But the feeling is very comparable to what you feel from the struggle you face with any entry-level job that’s just not cutting it.

Second, a lot of seasoned freelancers get to a point where they have long stints of stable income because they work with long-term clients, set up recurring revenue streams or make other business decisions that allow it.


 

But overall, we can agree that freelance income tends to fluctuate. That’s because it’s a business.

Whether you’re considering a freelance operation or a Fortune 500 company, business revenues will not be steady.

However, fluctuate is not an ugly word.

It’s not a given that fluctuations will be so steeply downward that you can’t pay your bills or cover your expenses. What people often fail to realize is the ups and downs can stay within a comfortable zone.

Inconsistent doesn’t mean insufficient.

Are freelancers more likely to struggle?

People who are accustomed to paychecks, they’re the ones who tend to have difficulty managing fluctuations in income because they design their lives around getting a set amount of money on a set schedule.

Freelancers, like other businesses, come to understand that uncertainty is part of the game. And it’s the part that glistens because in it lies opportunity.

One of the things I liked most about waitressing was the potential to earn more. My income was never capped. Whether I was serving a table at Cracker Barrel or at Nobu, there was no telling what I would get.

Now, I’m not a busty woman, but in my mind, there was always the possibility that a little shea butter on the chest bone and leaning in at the right angle could significantly boost my income as I cleared dirty dishes. (Side note: It never worked as planned.)

But, in general, with 40 hours and a paycheck, there’s no possibility for an employee to get a come-up.

That’s why in the conversation kicking off this post, I said with a steady paycheck a person will probably always have bills.

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People who get used to a steady paycheck, generally, at best, are managing their finances. Since there aren’t any upward fluctuations that allow them to get ahead, they just maintain.

Those who get a steady paycheck, like people on any other fixed income, are the ones who generally have the hardest time dealing with inflation and pop-up expenses.

Consistent doesn’t mean sufficient. So a lot of people with a steady income are aching equally, if not more, than freelancers.

This isn’t to say that all freelancers are caked up. This isn’t to say we don’t struggle sometimes. But people with jobs tend to portray it as a given that they’re in a better position, and that’s far from being an absolute truth.

Not only because many freelancers have comfortable finances, but also because when there is turbulence we’re mentally prepared for it, and we’re in a position to make moves to do something about it.

Listen To: 10 Things You Should Know About Freelancing

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