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Freelancing: Is It For You?
In times of economic uncertainty, freelancing can sometimes be one of the best ways to maintain an income. Freelancing will not work for everyone though, and there are some sectors in which it would be difficult to freelance successfully. However, if your sector lends itself to freelancing, it can bring in a second income or replace a lost income if you are made redundant. It is worth pointing out that becoming a freelancer will often involve changing your lifestyle, which does not suit everyone. Because of this, it can be beneficial to freelance on a part-time basis (around your current job, if that is feasible) to test the waters before you commit yourself. If you do decide to turn freelance, there are several benefits but also several disadvantages that you need to be aware of.
Flexible Working Hours
In theory, being freelance means that you can set your own working hours. If you have family commitments or other work commitments, you can freelance around those. This can achieve a good balance between work and home, although as many freelancers work from home, it can be difficult to separate the two.
Variable Work Projects
Being freelance often means that your work will vary from project to project. This will often depend on the client, as different clients will obviously have their own requirements. Many freelancers enjoy the unpredictability of their workload, but it is not to everyone's tastes.
Finding Your Own Work
While you may be lucky enough to pick up work from past employers on a freelance basis, most freelancers will find that they need to seek out their own work to get by. Not everyone has the knack for this as it relies heavily on the success of your self-marketing skills. If you cannot sell yourself and your services effectively enough, you may not be able to find enough freelance work to cover your outgoings. While successful freelancers often thrive on this, there are also many who loathe the unpredictability of not having work (and income) automatically given to them. If you do not cope well with stress, freelancing may not be for you.
As a self-employed freelancer, you will be responsible for sorting out your own tax. In the UK, you will usually pay one sum after your tax return has been processed, and this will often be due in the January after the relevant tax year has finished (in April). In the US, you tend to pay taxes on a quarterly basis, so it is vital to make sure that you keep detailed records to prevent against missing a payment. If in doubt, it is a good idea to hire an accountant to organise your financial affairs, and you will often be able to deduct this.
As a freelancer, you are not entitled to the same benefits as employees. This means no sickness pay if you get ill, and no paid holidays. That is not to say that freelancers do not take holidays, but they cannot take paid leave to do so.
If you are contemplating moving into freelancing, weigh up the pros and cons before you leave a full-time job. If it is possible to do so, try freelancing in your spare time around your full-time job, as this allows you to test the waters without committing to a career change that may not work out. If your freelancing begins to take off and you are matching the income brought in by a full-time job, this is the ideal time to move into freelancing as a career. Think carefully before you jump into freelancing, as working from home is not always everything that it is cracked up to be!