Ahh freelancing, being your boss, no structured hours, unlimited income, and a feeling of freedom from an employer. It’s no wonder people think ‘I can do this for myself’. But is giving up your status as a regular employee the right choice for you? If you are planning to go independent what are some questions you must have the answer to?
Well, here are 5 questions that you must ask yourself before leaping into freelancing.
What is your objective?
While choosing to go independent there are many legitimate reasons to take the leap. But some are not as such. If you are eager to take control over your career or want the creative freedom to work on projects you’re interested in, then these are great justifications for becoming a freelancer.
However, if you’re looking for a way to free yourself from the standard work schedule, escape working with a boss, or are looking for more vacation days, then those aren’t enough to warrant the jump.
It might be a good idea to think long and hard about what’s driving you to consider a freelance career. The objective here is to want to work towards something you love, rather than run away from something you don’t like.
Do you have a robust network?
While going independent sounds all cheesy and fun it is very important to have support and a good network, else all you are doing is building castles in the air. According to Sara Horowitz, the head of the Freelancers Union and author of The Freelancer’s Bible, “Freelancers who are connected to others tend to do best economically”.
You might be working alone but you do need a network of support, both personal and professional. Do you know a friendly accountant? Lawyer? Printer and IT technician? All the things you take for granted in an office have to be found by a freelancer. So, ask yourself who is in your support network, and are they reliable, cost-effective, and available to help when you need it?
But don’t despair if you don’t yet have an extensive professional network. You can build one even before you leave your job by attending relevant conferences, reaching out to people through LinkedIn or Twitter, or joining a group of freelancers or small business owners in your area.
Do you have a financial cushion?
Going independent also means you become financially independent, you now have the freedom to quote your price to clients and handle all payment processes on your own. But as with all businesses, generating stable revenue does not occur over midnight. Ideally in the initial phase, if you can’t go without income for three to six months, it’s better to build up enough cushion until you can do so.
Freelancing can come with a lot of uncertainty — you may not always know who your next client is going to be or how much you’re going to earn in the coming year. You have to be ready to deal with ambiguity.
How disciplined yet flexible can you be?
There’s no way to sugarcoat it: freelancing is hard work. You’re a one-person show, which means not only are you left to handle all of the tasks and to-dos yourself, but you also need to build and refine skills you may have never known you needed. You need to be self-motivated, organized, and have a strong work ethic.
But as important as it is to be disciplined and rigid, it is equally important to be flexible. You must be comfortable doing all sorts of things that aren’t directly related to your work. When you’re on your own, you’re your own boss, IT person, HR representative, benefits administrator, head of sales, and administrative assistant. You also have to be familiar with the laws around taxes and legal liability.
Yet again, doing it for yourself means asking whether you can do the difficult jobs. Chase up someone who hasn’t paid, get your money but don’t destroy your client relationships. You might be asked to do extra work on a prior brief, without additional fees, or set impossible deadlines. If you think you might be too passive, consider assertiveness training before becoming a freelancer or you might end up working for nothing.
How organized are you?
Being an independent professional doesn’t mean you need to have OCD but being organized is essential to a good business start. It is very important to customize your environment so it best works for you. Staying on top of things like your inbox, finances or clients can do wonders to make things work for you.
Another key aspect of being organized is maintaining a good work-life balance. One of the biggest questions that freelancers forget to ask themselves is how they can separate home and work when they work from home. Piles of work in all the living spaces mean they never really ‘switch off. To combat this problem most people assign a space in their home they label as an office. It can be a desk, a room, or even a specific corner. But having that separation is the difference between being suffocated by your work and genuinely loving it.
There you have it, 5 questions that can give you a checklist on whether freelancing is for you. If you answer yes to most then our advice is to go for it with gusto. You may find it hard, but you’ll never regret your decision to follow a dream and a passion. Love what you do and it won’t feel like work!