Here’s a Hard Dose of Reality: Freelancing Isn’t That Different From a Traditional 9-to-5 Job

Coming from someone who’s done both.

Carter Kilmann
The Startup
Published in
4 min readAug 11, 2021

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Source: Canva

Considering the current mass exodus from the corporate world to freelancing, what I’m about to say may sound controversial.

Freelancing isn’t that different from a 9-to-5 job.

Sure, a lot of the mundane aspects of corporate life are gone. Water coolers. Dress codes. Impromptu meetings about irrelevant company-wide initiatives. Three-hour online trainings that you attempt to mindlessly click through in under 20-minutes. Multi-hour commutes through bumper-to-bumper traffic that seem to shorten your life span. Constant reminders that you’re a replaceable cog in a massive machine. Office politics that make you question what mid-level and upper-level management contribute to the organization besides personal vendettas and drama. Cubicles. *Grimace*

I was happy to leave those things behind when I quit my job two years ago. But it’s not like freelancing isn’t still a 9-to-5 commitment. It’s at least that and usually more because the boons of freelancing — like creative independence, autonomy, and flexibility — aren’t immediate. At least, not if you want this venture to be financially sustainable. That would assume we start at the peak of the mountain, when, in reality, we start at the base. Depending on how you prepped for the climb, you might only have an ice pick and a light windbreak to support you on your ascent. The perks have to be earned.

That means continuing to embrace a lot of the same elements of the 9-to-5 lifestyle. A routine. A bedtime. A wake-up time. Structured intervals for writing. Structured intervals for editing. Timing everything to maximize productivity and efficiency. Networking to find potential clients. Networking to find a community of “coworkers” that support you. Handling administrative work until you can afford to outsource it. Choosing never to outsource it because it seems more cost-effective. Setting goals. Devising an incremental plan to divide goals into segments. Holding yourself accountable to ensure you meet those goals. Revisiting goals when you inevitably stray off course.

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Carter Kilmann
The Startup

Corporate banking drone turned freelance writer & editor. I write about personal finance, entrepreneurship, psychology, writing, and spontaneous allegories.