There’s a lot to learn before you begin your quest into the land of freelancing. Not only do you have lots of confusing tax stuff to sort out, you’ve got clients to deal with and deadlines to stick to.
And that’s before you’ve even started to do any work! Not everyone’s made for freelancing, so before you take the leap, be sure to ask yourself these seven important questions:
1. Are you prepared to give up free time?
While the image of freelancers is still a cat-lover lounging in their pyjamas and sipping lattes until the cows come home, this is far from the reality. As soon as you begin trading and that first client gives you a deadline, you’ll be tearing your hair out and wondering what a ‘UTR’ is.
All freelancers must be prepared to sacrifice their free time if they want to make money. That means switching off when you leave the ‘office’ is no longer an option, and you can kiss goodbye to your ‘work-free’ holiday this summer.
If you want to become a successful freelancer, you need to be prepared to give up free time in order to get your business off the ground and start marketing yourself like crazy.
2. Do you have a portfolio ready?
For those of you poised to launch into flaunting your freelance abilities, one question; have you got a portfolio? A selection of high quality work behind you will make convincing that first client a lot easier.
If you haven’t got professional experience or are having a career change, try volunteering with online publications or speaking to your friends about it. Someone in your social circle could have a small business that needs flyers writing for it, or a website that needs copy writing up.
While it’s not advisable to work for free or give out samples of your work, if you need to build your portfolio it could work in your favour – as long as you explain it’s a one off.
3. Can you deliver a quick turnaround on deadlines?
In the average nine to five job, you’re usually expected to complete a certain amount of work on a daily or weekly basis. Unfortunately, freelancing isn’t quite as relaxed.
A quick turnaround on deadlines is a demand freelancers must accommodate if they want to keep their clients happy. This is especially true for freelancers who are starting out, as you’ll largely work on sporadic projects until you can settle down with regular clients.
Are you able to deliver on a short deadline? If not, you might want to stick with the office for a little bit longer.
4. Do you have enough work to start up?
Without a decent amount of work to start off with, you could struggle getting on your feet. Your first few weeks will consist of learning new skills, including marketing, admin and finances. If you’re also looking for new work while trying to learn these skills, you’ll burn out after the first month.
Spread things out by looking for freelance work while you’re still at your current job. This will save time and take some pressure off you when you leave to pursue the freelance lifestyle.
5. How will you cope when work dries up?
Looking for new clients before you leave is a good idea, but what if work dries up a couple of months in? It happens to even the most experienced freelancers, so coping without work for periods at a time is a skill you should learn immediately.
Now’s the time to create your ‘lack of work action plan’, and give it a test run before the real deal. Figure out how you’ll budget when you’re struggling, how long you can manage for until you’ll be ringing your parents for a loan, and what your favourite flavour pot noodle is (you won’t have money to waste on the ones you don’t like!).
When you can, save for times when work is likely to get slow, such as over Christmas and Easter. This will ease some of the pressure and give you more time to search for work.
6. Have you got a work space ready?
Your new-found flexibility means you can work from just about anywhere, so there’s no need to feel limited.
For those lucky enough to have a home office, your work is done. If you don’t have somewhere quite as spacious, you might have to think more creatively. Any awkward alcoves can house a built-in desk will keep your work in one, out-of-the-way space.
Alternatively, you can venture to meet new freelancers by using a co-working space, although if you’ve just left the office you might want to find your feet before you plonk yourself in another office situation.
7. Do you have a system in place for clients who aren’t prepared to cough up?
A huge problem for thousands of freelancers is clients who try to con their way to free work. This might be done by asking for samples of work from multiple freelancers, and never paying any of them for their services. Alternatively they might ask you to complete work and just refuse to pay – knowing that court fees for freelancers are sometimes not an option.
To avoid any sticky situations, have a template of a contract written up for every piece of project you begin. Make your conditions as clear as possible, and if you think it’s appropriate, ask for a deposit or half of the money up front.
What else needs to be considered when going freelance? If we’ve missed anything, leave it in the comments below!