Perhaps you’ve always fancied the freelance life or maybe it’s only begun to appeal recently. But however long you’ve had one eye on breaking free and working for yourself, here are our five ways to know when it’s the right time to go freelance.
You Love Your Work, but not Your Job
It’s what you always wanted to do; this is the work you trained and studied for. Yet you dread going to work (or at the very least, feel completely unmotivated to do so). And it’s not just this job – it’s the one before, too. Maybe it’s because you’re fed up with the internal politics of employment: the cliques and alliances, the preferential treatment and promotion of some employees and the shoddy treatment of others. Maybe you’re being pushed to become middle management, when all you want is to do the work to an expert level. Or perhaps you’re fed up with your job because…
Nobody Listens To Your Ideas – and You Know You Can Do It Better
Whether it’s ideas for greater creativity, business expansion, marketing and promotion, organisation or even just for ensuring the staff room isn’t a permanent pigsty, your ideas deserve to be heard – and it’s frustrating if they’re consistently ignored (except that one you had about dressing up as chickens every Friday. That one deserved to be ignored). Work for yourself and it will be your ideas – tempered, of course, by research and advice from those who’ve gone before you – that rule the roost (no, that’s a metaphor. The chicken costumes are still a bad idea).
You Love Your Job – But You Love Your Hobby Or Second Career More
Perhaps you have a hobby that involves producing something or offering a service – a viable business idea – and you know you’re really good at it. Other people think you’re really good at it, too; not just your uncle and your neighbours, but people who know enough about the sector to Maybe you’ve already dabbled in a little freelance work in your spare time? Among people I know, there seems to be a bizarre correlation between working in education and setting up a sideline in some remarkably expert cake making and decorating.
If the time spent on this hobby or second career is far more satisfying than the time you spend at the day job, then it’s time to be honest about where your heart lies (unless it’s making chicken costumes. I’m not convinced there’s that big a market).
You’ve done Your Homework: You Know There’s A Market
Scenario 1: You’ve worked in the industry long enough to know that you have something different to offer – or that what you can do will be better quality and/or value for clients. You can see ways to tighten up the process, cut costs, organise the workload more efficiently and compete with the companies you’ve worked for.
Scenario 2: You’ve only tried this career out as a second job or done it as a hobby, but you’re done thorough research into costs, pricings and premises and/or know enough from your ‘trial’ period to know that making this your main source of income is a viable idea (no, really, costume design is all very well, but think about widening your product range… no, turkeys won’t do. Think beyond poultry).
You’ve Got A Back-Up Plan (and Finance)
Confidence, optimism and determination are vital freelance skills and they will stand you in good stead, but you also have need of their friends – realism, rationality and real money.
Do your best to part ways with your employer, colleagues and clients on good terms.
Should you need employment in the same sector in future, recommendations or references from these people might be important, so it’s best not to flounce out, slamming the door behind you, after delivering a vitriolic speech about what’s wrong with the company and everyone who works there. Having a plan for what you’ll do if freelancing fails and how long you’ll try it for is a sign you’re well prepared to make the move.
Alongside your back-up plan, you’ll need back-up finance. In your sector, you may need little or no money to sail forth as a freelancer, but you will need a sum of money to live on while you get your career established. Unless you’ve have an extraordinarily lucrative second career for some time, it will take awhile to build up your contacts, portfolio, reputation and workload, and during this time you’ll still need to pay the bills.
So you’re full of bright ideas and well-researched plans; you long to be your own boss and believe you’ll be brilliant; and you have a decent sum stashed away to cover bills and living costs for at least a few months. What are you waiting for? Go! Freelance!