6 Things you need to bear in mind before going freelance
Lately, it has turned fashionable to become a freelancer, and it is easy to understand why. Being a freelancer gives you much freedom, since you can be your own boss, work from wherever you want, and hence, enjoy more time with your kids and family if you decide to work from home... plus a huge list of other positive things. However, if you are considering going freelance, you need to learn some other aspects or it before making such important decision, in order to know if it is for you or not.
It is a very -even the most- important point to bear in mind before deciding to work as a freelancer. If you are actually a full-time employee, I recommend you to save at least 6 months of you income before quitting your job. Why? Well, if you haven't build up your clientèle yet, it will take you some months before you can live completely on your freelancing income.
When I started as a freelancer, I was lucky enough, as my partner and I had some savings and not only did he understand my dream of working freelance, but also he encouraged me to do so. Besides, he was a full-time employee, thus we had a steady source of income. But if your family depends on you, and you need to pay the bills and take care of your family, it is really, really important that you save at least 6 months worth of expenses.
Another thing I encourage you to do while you are working as an employee, is devoting your leisure free time to build up a clientèle, so that, when you start as a full-time freelancer, you will have some monthly income assured.
Work on your skills
I know it is an obvious point for any working area, but let's face reality: when we are full-time employees working for someone else, we don't tend to focused excessively on improving our skills. Yes, we need to be good in our job or we will be fired, but we know that, unless we turn out to be completely inept workers, it will not happen, especially if we have signed a permanent contract.
When working as a freelancer, the thing is completely different. You are not an employee anymore, but a professional who is offering his/her services to potential clients, and those clients will just hire the best freelancer they can find, expecting high quality standards and professionalism from you. Bear in mind that you're not the only freelancer fighting for getting this very client, but one among many others, who are highly prepared for working on that project, and hence, you need to work constantly in order to improve your skills so that you stand out from the others.
When you work as a freelancer, whether you work as a photographer, a writer or a designer, not only will you have to work on your projects and skills, but you will also need to create a personal branding. And when a I mean working on your branding, I mean you will have to spend much more time building it, than working on your projects. You will have to make yourself known as a professional, and in order to do so, you will have to work in your blog, your website, make professional contacts on the social media, go to conferences, and so on.
This is very important, because if you don't do so, no matter how good you are on your field, nor will your possible clients find you on the net, neither will they know who you are. If they don't know you, they won't trust you, and therefore they won't hire your services.
Finances & Productivity
If you decide to work as a freelancer, you have to remember that not only will you be a professional, but also a businessman/woman. This means that you will have to manage the finances of your business, and as a corporate citizen, unless you hire a consultant, you will also have to manage all the bureaucracy needed to comply your tax liabilities.
Also, you want your business to be profitable, and in order to do so, I recommend you to measure your productivity. It would be great if you had an excel application or similar, where you can keep track of the hours you devote to each activity (working projects, getting clients, branding, etc), your monthly/weekly earnings and their source. This way, when you look at your chart, you will know how much are you earning per hour, and it will also help you learn which habits you need to modify or improve in order to increase your income.
Although working as a freelancer may sound like a dream, it also has some aspects which could be inconvenient, that must be taken into consideration before going freelance. It will help you decide if freelancing is for you or not.
When you work as an employee at an office, you are forced to leave your home to go to work every day, but when working as a freelancer it is very easy to end up having a sedentary lifestyle, in fact there is a very well-known term between freelancers: the so-called "pyjamas syndrome", and it is originated in the quite typical fact that you may find yourself still in your pyjamas by midday.
In order to avoid it, you can choose to work from some place else which is not home, for example, a library, a Starbucks, or if you have a mobile usb internet for your laptop, you can even go to work in front of the beach or any other place you may fancy. Also, you can spend an hour a day practising some outdoor sport, such as running or cycling. For instance, when it is possible, I personally spend a couple of hours a day surfing, which is a fantastic way not only to suspend sedentary habits, but also to relieve stress.
Working for too many hours from home, can make you feel quite lonely. No matter if you have your family at home with you, or how many times you stay connected to your social network; you don't have colleagues you could talk to about your job or your feelings, and who could understand the highs and lows of your profession. Attending courses or lectures related to your industry may help you not only to improve your skills, but also to meet other professional colleagues who understand completely what being a freelancer means.
Are you planning become a freelance?
Which kind of freelance are you planning to be?
As a freelancer, you will see that there are some periods in which you may not get any clients, or not enough to pay all your bills (that's another reason you always need to have some savings).
During those periods, you will spend most of your time trying to contact clients, bidding on new projects and sending CVs, and witnessing how you are not being hired by any of them. When that happens, you may quite sure feel that you are not good enough, as there is no one interested hiring you. Well, let me tell you that this is not true, you are a great professional who is working hard in order to improve every day, and that this famine does not only affects newbie freelancers, but also the most established and successful ones.
Those famine periods may be possibly the result of a bad marketing strategy, or reflect a need to improve your skills, but may also be - as always happens on the business world - due to fluctuations in the market of your industry. When you find yourself in this situation, do not despair. Join that course you could not join before, due to the amount of work you had, and take advantage of the time you have to improve your skills and your marketing strategy, so that your next famine period takes longer to arrive.
And even better, enjoy your leisure time, you have been working so hard and for so long, that you deserve some rest or going on holiday to that place you always dreamt of. This will help you disconnect from stress and come back to work with your batteries fully charged and prepared, come what may. But of course, do not start to throw your money away, spend it wisely, and while your are out, remain ready for action in case any of those clients who you contacted before come back to you with a new project.
Well, I don't mean with all this that you cannot be a freelancer if you don't think you can cope with all these factors. I have felt stressed by them myself many times, and have had my highs and lows along the way, but we all can learn how to deal with it and try to improve those aspects every day. Working as a freelance has been the best thing that has ever happened to me; and taking all those facts into account, if you are willing to fight for your dream of becoming a freelancer, then go for it and enjoy, you won't regret it!
© 2013 Katia De Juan