Have you been thinking of going freelance lately? The immense flexibility of time and location, and the freedom to do what you want on your own terms appeals to almost anyone. There is a deep sense of empowerment; to do what you enjoy, to choose who you want to work with and be financially independent. Of course, the thought of being able to work at home every day, in your jammies, with Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” blaring in the background – is super awesome, too.
What is freelancing?
Freelancing is simply an alternative way of working. Freelancers are self-employed and represent a smorgasbord of talent; from web designers, writers, marketing consultants to professionals offering legal services. They service multiple businesses at a time with pays varying from hourly, daily or per assignment basis. While most gigs are usually short, there are instances that a freelancer’s service is retained on a contract basis for a specific duration.
According to a recent Upwork survey, the freelance workforce in the U.S. has grown by 3.7 million workers in the past five years. This means that more than 1 in 3 Americans worked independently in some way in 2018. Globally, the move away from traditionally stable professions to freelancing is noteworthy, especially when four in every ten millennials are opting to freelance as their choice of careers.
The rise of freelancers in this “gig economy” is perhaps attributed to a growing appreciation of their worth. Freelancers are now highly regarded for their experience and skills and are often esteemed as established professionals who are able to contribute positively to start-ups as well as key business verticals.
Is freelancing for me?
Richie Norton, the author of “The Power of Starting Something Stupid”, believed that if you change how you are paid, you change your life. Hence, if you are bold enough to venture into freelancing full time, you might very well be rewarded with the ideal work-life balance and the unlimited income potential that many can only dream about.
But, here’s the truth. Freelancing is not for everyone. It is reserved for those who are tenacious and indomitable-spirited.
Before you take a leap into this “gig economy”, here are five tough questions you need to ask yourself. This reality check will enable you to take the leap confidently and enjoy much success.
1. Am I ready for a pay cut?
Walking away from permanent employment is a big loss. You have to be ready to take pay cuts, suffer the loss of benefits and forgo all other rewards tied to your employment. This loss affects not only yourself but your spouse and children, too. There are no medical or health benefits, no phone nor car allowances, too. You are pretty much on your own.
The pay from freelancing can be inconsistent as it depends on the number of gigs you do. Expect dry spells, especially when you first start out.
Plus, like everyone else, you only have 24 hours each day. There is a limit to how many gigs you can do in a month. Depending on your speed and capacity, you might end up taking lesser gigs and end up earning lesser than when you were employed.
Savings are almost unheard of in your initial stage. Instead, you often need to draw from your savings to invest in your tools of the trade, pay travel, utility and other expenses.
If you have heavy financial commitments or are in the midst of starting a family, you might want to postpone going full time in freelancing.
2. Do I have a niche?
Every freelancer needs to know what their niche is, in order to determine what kind of freelancing work they are going to do. Niche is the “X” factor you need to differentiate yourself from other freelancers out there. Creating a niche tells your clients that you are an expert in your field. To begin, think of something you are really good at doing. And love doing, too. Determine your strength. Discover your passion. Your niche should be unique to you, marketable and fills a need (that no one else is doing yet). For example, a creative person with a keen eye for detail may offer photography or makeup services. A person gifted with language prowess may offer copywriting services. Think hard about what you are going to offer. It has to be able to sustain you financially and keep you motivated for the longest time.
3. Am I willing to forgo career progressions and work alone?
It is a view long held by society that the higher your position is in an organisation, the more successful you are in life. How often we admire the CEOs and CFOs and be envious of their success? We aspire to be like them and model ourselves after them. Should you choose to quit your formal employment, you give up your job title, ambition and forfeited a clear path of career progression. Your career is no longer the measure of your success.
On the other hand, as a freelancer, you are reduced to a jack-of-all-trades. You are the writer, the mail boy, the customer service, the technician (yes, you’ll have to repair your own printers at times) and you work alone. It can be isolating at times. I’ll like to say my workmates are my young kids, but that’ll be too embarrassing. Plus, no matter how hard I work, I won’t be promoted. So, if you are the one who cares a lot about job titles, positions, hierarchical privileges and career progression path, think twice before you take the leap.
4. Am I ready to work harder and longer hours?
While you have flexible hours as a freelancer, you will find yourself putting in long, extra hours to get your clients in. The amount of work is – unbelievable. You have to manage the entire cycle of prospecting, cold calling, presenting yourself to your prospects and servicing as well. You need to be as efficient as possible; organising everyday tasks, meeting clients, doing the actual job, networking, marketing and still finding time to follow up on payments and other matters.
As you are your own boss now, the success of your business depends entirely on your sound business acumen. Suddenly, you need to be the expert negotiator – asserting yourself to the most difficult of clients. You are the marketing guru – establishing your presence and branding strategies. You are the intuitive opportunist- identifying and seizing opportunities. You are the finance master – knowing how to price an acceptable and profitable fee. These are among the many hats you need to wear when you are on your own.
More is demanded of you. To stay ahead of others, you must stay updated and learn any relevant applications as well as the latest technology. This constant upskilling will help you work smarter and faster and in return, generate more income for you.
You need to always work hard to be your best self. Complacency is the enemy of excellence. When you tend to forget, remember that there will always be another freelancer out there who can design better, quote a lower fee and work faster than you.
5. What’s the best time to start?
There is no right time to take the leap, although it is best that you should only do it after a calculated decision. My best advice? Start freelancing while you are still employed full-time. Start it as a side gig; over weekends and after office hours. Take this time to explore opportunities, learn new tricks in the industry, test and build your skills. It is remarkable the extent of learning, adapting and exposure you will experience. You will know how you fare in the market and recognise if this is really what you want for your future.
Thankfully, there is a myriad of tips available online about freelancing that it is now almost a fail proof venture. If you need help starting a search for freelancing opportunities, connect with global job distribution platforms such as Jobstore, which supports 100+ job sites and social networks. As a freelancer starting out, you will need all the support and encouragement you can get.
Thinking about going into a full-time freelance career? Leave us your thoughts on the comment sections below. Head over to Jobstore.com and unveil your next job opportunity.
Evelyn is an unconventional content writer with over 13 years of experience in local and regional sales. A liberated corporate slave, she is a solopreneur now and writes compelling stories for organisations serious about effective engagement. Her musings on marketing, branding and content strategies can be found at Write Synergy She can be reached at email@example.com