If working for an employer can be likened to a type of professional marriage (you work for one employer at a time, and if you decide to moonlight and take on another job, you probably want to keep that fact quiet or face consequences), working as a freelancer is more like living together. You are committed to that client as long as the arrangement meets both your needs, and you accept that it may not necessarily be a long-term thing (but there is a possibility that you will be working together indefinitely).
Each professional relationship has its advantages and disadvantages, of course. I’ve been an employee many times in the past and while I had those jobs I was committed to doing my best and I was loyal to the companies who hired me. Now I work for myself and I have the toughest boss I’ve ever had. I also have wonderful clients who I genuinely like and respect, and I truly enjoy the work that I do.
What if it Doesn’t Work Out?
We may feel more comfortable as freelancers getting hired for a specific project, as opposed to a long-term arrangement. The long-term thing can feel like a job as opposed to a different kind of project, and it can be tempting to consider how interested you are in the gig in light of the “What if it doesn’t work out?” angle.
There are many reasons why a gig may not work out. If you took a job as an employee, it may not work out the way you were hoping, either. You are saying yes to a gig or a job, not a marriage proposal. That may not work out either, but it’s a lot easier to say goodbye to a client or an employer than to get a divorce.
If you say yes to the gig, then commit to doing the best job you can, as long as you and the client have a workable arrangement. You can always make another decision later on and talk about changing the terms or give notice and move on to something that is a better fit. The idea that someone will get a job and stick with one employer throughout his or her working life is no longer the norm. Maybe freelancers are just being more honest about their professional commitment issues from the outset.