If the bright, shiny New Year or the misery of dragging yourself back to your job after the festive break have made freelancing seem suddenly attractive, STOP. There are many things to consider before you decide to go freelance. It’s not something you should rush into – and some people shouldn’t do it at all.
Here are fourteen questions you should answer honestly before making the move:
Is there a market for the skills you could offer?
Do your research and make sure your skills are in demand on a freelance basis and what typical rates of pay are. There may be associations you can investigate and specialised websites or forums you can look at to give you a better idea of the market.
Are you a good communicator?
When you’re in established employment, you usually know what’s expected of you and when. If you’re a freelancer, you have to establish this with each new client and project and also give and accept constructive feedback. To do that, you must be able to communicate effectively.
Can you promote yourself and charge what you’re worth?
Sitting home telling no one about what you can do and how well you do it won’t get you work. If you’re not prepared to promote your skills positively, freelancing isn’t for you. You must also be prepared to charge clients a reasonable price – bearing in mind that you’re bringing the workplace, utilities and equipment to the deal and that the only insurance, annual leave and sick pay you get is that you award yourself.
Can you cope with working at home?
Not everyone finds it easy to work at home; psychologically, it’s the place you relax away from work and there’s no obvious division between work and home – or working hours and relaxing time – because you’re not travelling somewhere else at a certain time to start work. Snacks, the TV, household chores that need doing – these all need to be ignored.
Do you have a place to work?
Is there actually a suitable place to work in your home, with space to not just do your work but also store paperwork, materials or equipment? Having a specific place to do your work is not only a practical benefit but a psychological one too, allowing you to get into work mode and giving you the freedom to ‘walk away’ from wok at the end of the day.
Do you have the equipment you will need?
Think about the cost involved in setting yourself up with any equipment you need. Will you need a new landline or mobile? Is your PC up to the task and do you have a printer or copier? Do you have high-speed internet and a messaging facility, e.g. Skype?
Have you built up a reserve fund?
It can take time to get established and earn a living wage – if you can, try to get some freelancing work while you’re still employed so that you can build up wok and clients while you have the safety blanket of a regular wage. Preferably, don’t abandon your job and begin freelancing until you’ve built up a reserve fund to cover your living expenses for at least a month. A three-month reserve fund is ideal. When you first start out, you may find that it will take some time to get your first freelancing job.
Do you know where to find clients and work?
Whatever kind of freelance career you have, these days, it’s essential to have your own website to promote your services. But that won’t be enough by itself to draw in regular work. Before you start freelancing, discover where your type of project is advertised and where your potential clients lurk. Investigate magazines, job boards and forums.
Do you have the self-discipline you’ll need?
You need to be sure that without the structure of a working day and the expectations of colleagues and your boss, you’ll still be able to ignore distractions and knuckle down to work, ensuring you hit your deadlines.
Do you have the organisational skills you’ll need?
Managing your time, scheduling work, pitching for work, keeping business and financial records, sending out invoices and chasing them up when they go unpaid – it’s all down to you. If that doesn’t sound appealing, freelancing isn’t for you.
Can you be your own boss – and a star employee too?
Freelancers are both boss and employee simultaneously. With your boss hat on, you must ensure employee-you works reasonable hours in a safe, healthy environment and undertakes any training required. With your employee hat on, you must ensure you give your best and don’t take advantage of your close relationship with your boss.
Will you be happy working alone?
It’s easy to focus on the flexibility and freedom of freelancing, but remember that most freelancers spend much of their time working alone. There are no colleagues to ask for help if you hit a tricky patch, nobody to cover for you when you’re ill, nobody to chat at break time. There’s just you, day in, day out.
Will family and friends leave you alone when you need to work?
Unfortunately, many people are under the impression that people who work from home can do whatever they want. Family and friends with this belief might feel they can phone you, visit you or ask you for a favour at any time – even though they wouldn’t dream of doing so if you were at work.
Can you cope with the insecurity?
Not knowing where your next project or pay check is common at the beginning of a freelance career and not unusual further down the road either. This can be very stressful and for some people, it’s this that makes a freelance career untenable. Think carefully how you will feel if you’re sitting at home with no work to do and none on the horizon either.
If you think you have the right answer for all these questions, then go for it! The flexibility and freedom of freelancing might be worth the effort it takes to maintain your new career.