There are many romantic notions surrounding freelance careers. Often people think about freelancing the way movies and books portray it – the freedom, no boss looking over your shoulder, the unlimited income potential. The truth about freelancing is far different though. It rarely looks like it does in the movies so before setting your sights on a freelancing career ask yourself these 10 questions to determine if you are really cut out for it.
1. Are you meticulously organized? As a freelancer you will be juggling deadlines, work hours, family, contracts, rates, client issues, taxes, everything that you would handle if you worked for a company if you were the owner, marketing director, chief financial officer – wait, you are all of those things.
A freelancing career is one of the hardest, most difficult jobs you will ever have. It is also one of the most rewarding, but if you aren’t organized you won’t be able to stay afloat. It takes a great deal of organization in order to just keep your affairs straight.
2. Are you an expert in time management? Time management is a very big part of freelancing. In fact, your career will depend on how well you are able to manage your time. While you probably realize that you will need to be able to effectively manage your time with your projects, what you may not realize is that you will also have to set aside time to devote to self-promotion, sales, networking and education.
It takes a lot of self-discipline to make a living freelancing. It is absolutely vital that you are able to manage your time – or learn how. You have to learn how to work smarter, not harder – and time management is the core working smarter.
3. Can you manage your money? Freelance income is not consistent. The pay is not regular. Your taxes will not be taken out by an employer meaning that you will have to figure it out yourself. You will need to save and meticulously budget your money.
If you are a nervous Nellie when it comes to finances then you might have some difficulty with freelancing. It can be difficult to build your business so that you can support your lifestyle, pay your rent and pay other bills. This means you will have to look ahead, plan your projects in order to maximize your income and budget well so that you are sustained during dry spells.
4. Can you manage your work/life balance? You have to work but you also have to take time for family and home – and yourself. Working all the time leads to burn out so taking time for yourself is integral. You need to know how to separate work time from family or self-time – even when it is all happening in your home.
You will need to set aside a block of time that is for work only. As a freelancer you do have the luxury of making your schedule more flexible, but you do need some sort of structure. If you have children you will likely need a babysitter at least part of the time. You will need to set aside time to do things for yourself.
5. How many hats can you wear at one time? You will have to wear many hats as a freelancer, sometimes several at once. You are a one person show, acting as the manager, editor, advertiser, accountant and everything else. But that is just on the business side. When you incorporate your family and private life into the mix that’s a whole new set of hats.
You have to be ready and able to switch from one job function to another and be able to handle whatever comes at you. Sure, you may hire someone to do your taxes or advertising, if you are making enough. But in the lean times you will find that you are doing most of it by yourself.
6. Are you able to motivate, manage and drive yourself? Are you a self-starter? Can you keep yourself motivated, driving yourself to meet deadlines, pitch clients and handle issues that may arise? As a freelancer, most of those things fall squarely on your shoulders.
Even if you work through a site like freelancer.com that manages the payments – or at least ensures you get paid – you still have to pitch the client, determine what your time and work are worth, pitch the client, handle the issues, meet the deadlines, pay your taxes, manage your time and always be looking for opportunities. Ask yourself, are you up for that?
7. Are you OK with irregular hours, irregular pay and irregular work? Very rarely is the life of a freelancer a regular one. Freelance work means that your hours will not be very regular. You will have times when the work is abundant and times when it just isn’t there. There will be times when you can command top dollar for your work and other times when you will be scraping the bottom of the barrel.
The freelance life is full of ups and downs and you have to be tough enough, resilient enough and resourceful enough to go with the flow, riding the waves. Some things you will learn along the way, but going in you should know that it is a very irregular life much of the time.
8. Are you willing to do whatever it takes to make it? You may have to adjust your spending, your social life, your lifestyle, even your sleep schedule in order to make your freelance career work. You can’t treat it like you would a regular job because it isn’t. You don’t have the luxury of clocking in, working, going to lunch, working, clocking out and going home where you relax and rest. You don’t have some supervisor telling you what to do and when to complete it. You won’t ‘lose your job’ if you miss a deadline – but you may lose a client.
You have to be willing to give all of yourself to your freelance career – and then some. You will need to learn how to balance your work life and your home life but, at least in the beginning, you will be giving a lot to the work side of your life.
9. Do you get along with yourself? Do you need lots of contact with other people? Or are you Ok with being alone much of the time? Freelancing can be lonely work. You will typically be at home, by yourself and your primary contact with other people will be online. At times you may talk on the phone, but even that will be business calls. You will not have the camaraderie of coworkers to talk to and help pass the day. No, you will be pretty much on your own – so, do you get along with yourself.
10. Are you hungry? Hungry people tend to be the real go-getters and often work out the best in freelance situations. They realize that they are easily replaceable in an extremely competitive job market. They understand that their job is not guaranteed. They know well the feast or famine nature of the freelancing beast. But they are hungry so they press on and they make it work. If you are truly hungry, you will be willing to accept the difficulty and uncertainty of freelance life. You will embrace it and make it work for you.
Freelancing is .a tough business, but it is also rewarding and can be lucrative. The key is knowing if it is right for you. If you have what it takes you can make a career out of freelancing that will sustain you. But you have to be realistic, know your limits and know what you are and aren’t capable of doing. You have to know if you can handle the freelance life.