What do you need to consider when going freelance?
Becoming a freelancer can be one of the most rewarding moves in your career. You get to be your own boss, work your own hours in the comfort of your own home and get to be responsible for your own success, without the pressures and politics of an office job and the often horrible daily commute that comes with it.
So going freelance sounds like an incredibly attractive prospect. However, being your own boss can also be very challenging. Freelance work isn’t for everyone and it’s important that you weigh up the pros and cons and consider all aspects of freelance working life before you leave your nine-to-five job and take the leap into the freelance world. It’s a big decision to make and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
If you’re considering going freelance it’s important that you feel as informed and prepared as possible. Here are some points to consider before you make the plunge.
Prior experience is invaluable
it’s incredibly important that you have enough experience in your field of expertise before going solo. Not only will you be able to charge more for your time with greater experience, but winning new clients and maintaining accounts depends on your knowledge and experience learned in previous employments. Your clients will expect you to be an expert in your area and you can’t be that until you’ve learned the ropes of your trade and gained enough experience within an office environment, so don’t jump ship too soon!
You will be working on your own
Freelancing can be a lonely profession. At home on your own with only your laptop, and (if you’re lucky) a cat or dog for company is a lot different from the hustle and bustle of a busy office environment. Apart from the occasional client meeting, freelance work can be quite isolating. If you’re someone who thrives on working in a team and needs to be around others to feel creative, then going freelance might not be the best idea.
You will need to be organized
Being a freelancer is like running your own business and the key to success for any business is good organisation. With no one else around to remind you of upcoming meetings, deadlines and important dates, it’s essential to keep to-do lists, set reminders on computer calendars and make spread sheets. Some basic organisational skills are necessary for eliminating forgotten conference calls and most importantly keeping you on track with your invoicing!
You will need to manage your time effectively and be self-disciplined
One of the joys of freelance life is the luxury of working your own hours. However, being able to harmoniously balance your working life with your personal life can be difficult and is only possible with some very careful planning, good time management skills and some self-discipline. It can be too easy to slip into a cycle of working late nights and sleeping in late the next morning, which isn’t a healthy way to run a business, especially when your clients are working a nine to five day and will expect you to be available during these hours.
Only you are accountable for the success of your freelance career
You and only you are responsible for the success of your career as a freelancer. Late delivery of a project, handing in something that’s not up to your usual high standards, or keeping poor client relationships will lose you work in the future. There’s no team to hide behind or boss to bail you out of a tricky situation, so be prepared for the responsibility involved with starting freelance work.
Lack of employment benefits & perks
Working for yourself does mean you will miss out on certain benefits that full-time employment offers. For example, there’s no such thing as paid leave when you’re a freelancer – all the time that you are not working and not billing your clients then you’re not earning. Also, the work Christmas party might be a bit lonely.
You’ll need to take on lots of different roles
As a freelancer you are effectively a one-person business. This means that as well as actually doing the work you get paid for doing, you will also need to take on the roles of IT technician, sales and marketing person, client services person, accounts department and office cleaner. With no one else working with you, you are responsible for all areas of your business, so you need to be a well-rounded individual who is prepared to take all this on.
No steady work or income
Being a freelancer brings no guarantee of a steady stream of regular work. Sometimes you might find yourself twiddling your thumbs and at other times you’ll be rushed off your feet. This is unfortunately just the way freelance work is. Due to its irregular nature you won’t be making a fixed amount of money every month. On top of this, clients unfortunately don’t always pay on time. Without the comfort of a unchanging monthly salary, it’s a good idea to have some savings set aside to make sure you’ll always be able to pay the bills every month.
Freelance work can be hugely challenging, but overall it can be incredibly satisfying. As long as you are prepared for ups and downs, and you treat your work as a business, you’ll reap the rewards that freelance work can bring.