5 Questions to Ask Before You Jump into Freelancing
Many people want to become full-time freelancers. It sure sounds fun: being your own boss, ditching the alarm clock, taking vacations whenever you want.
However, the harsh reality is that most freelancers struggle to get clients and they barely make ends meet.
Below are five questions to ask yourself before you decide to quit your job to pursue a full-time freelancing career.
But first, let’s discuss why you would want to be a full-time freelancer in the first place.
Benefits of Being a Freelancer
- Location independence. If you choose to get your freelance gigs online, then you’re no longer tied to being in a certain location. You can work remotely from anywhere in the world that has an Internet connection. A career in freelancing allows you to travel, experience different cultures, save money by living in a country that has a cost of living that’s lower than your country, or simply escape winter if you prefer sunny beaches over snow.
- Control over your time. As a full-time freelancer you dictate how you spend your time. You can adjust to your own natural work preferences (perhaps you like working at night or early in the morning) and avoid crowds at the mall, grocery store or gym by going to them when everyone else is sitting in office cubicles. You can meet your cousin for lunch on Wednesday when he’s in town. You can take a few days off in the middle of a week if you wanted to.
- Ability to choose who to work with. You don’t have to work with certain people if you don’t want to. Sure, when you are first starting out, you may have to take almost every project that comes your way. However, once you become more established you will get to choose clients you want to work with, which will make your life more pleasant.
- Unlimited earning potential. Once you start freelancing, your income is no longer capped to a monthly salary and you have the opportunity to truly reap what you sow.
The Harsh Truth About Freelancing
It’s important to understand that freelancing is not all rainbows and unicorns though.
Freelancing is much harder than most people think. Sure, there are a lot of perks that come with the gig, but there are also unique challenges as well.
Many people get enchanted by the freedom that freelancing provides, but they don’t think through all of the new types of responsibilities that comes with this sort of career.
Everyone likes to think that they can work for themselves; and sure, most people could get by if they really try.
But the truth is freelancing can make your life absolutely miserable if it’s not a good fit with your personality.
Here are five key questions to ask yourself to determine if you’re really ready to become a full-time freelancer.
Are you willing to promote yourself?
Getting clients is the biggest headache for most freelancers.
When you work in-house in a corporate setting as a designer, you usually get tasks handed to you, you get them done, and then you get paid at the end of the month.
That’s not how it works when you are a freelancer: you have to go out there, find potential clients and convince them that they should hire you.
You can learn how to promote yourself, network with people, and sell your services.
However, for some of us, especially those who are naturally introverted, it can be difficult to find the willingness to step outside of your comfort zone.
Once you get over that fear of self-promotion, the techniques for doing so are learnable and easily executable.
Read the following to learn about self-promotion and networking:
- 5 Self-Promotion Tips That Aren’t Sleazy (Six Revisions)
- How To Network for Introverts (Business Pundit)
- 8 Ways to Promote Your Work Online (Six Revisions)
- Discussion thread: When did self-promotion become important? (Hacker News)
- How to Promote Yourself (Lifehacker)
Are you good at managing your own time?
It’s hard to get things done when you work from home.
You can’t work too little, because then you won’t earn enough money to pay your bills.
But you also can’t work too much, because then the dream of working from home will turn into a nightmare of living at work.
When you’re a freelancer, there’s no one to tell you when to start or stop working.
Are you self-motivated and disciplined enough for the freelancing lifestyle?
The good news is that time management is an acquired skill. To learn how to manage your time better and improve your productivity, read these:
- Mastering Productivity: How to Be More Effective With Your Time (zenhabits)
- 10 Bad Habits You Need to Break to Be More Productive (Time Management Ninja)
- 3 Tips for Getting More Done in a Day (Freakishly Productive)
- 5 Books That Will Instantly Improve Your Productivity (Design Instruct)
- Commit Yourself to Action by Investing in Success (Pick the Brain)
Can you work with multiple different personalities?
The whole you are your own boss thing is misleading. It’s true that as a freelancer you don’t have the traditional concept of a boss or manager that you have to report to.
However, each project you take on will have a boss: The client.
A successful freelancing career means taking on multiple projects. This means you have to deal with many different clients that have their own personality quirks and expectations.
The saving grace for freelancers, though, is — unlike a 9-to-5 job — you can choose to stop working with a client after the project is completed. In a corporate job, you will be stuck with your boss, managers, colleagues, etc. until the day you (or they) leave.
Some reading material to help you maintain excellent, professional-level client relations:
- The Art of Client Service (The Brolik Blog)
- 6 Tips for Building Lasting Relationships with Clients (Freshbooks)
- How to Rock Client/Designer Relationships (The Pixelista)
- How to Handle a Client Crisis (Andrew Sobel’s blog)
Can you handle uncertainty?
There’s no such thing as job security in this day and age, regardless of what job you have. You can always get downsized or lose your physical ability to work.
However, the financial uncertainty aspect is much stronger when you’re a freelancer since you don’t have a fixed monthly income.
There are going to be some times when you have no clients at all. Are you able to prepare for situations like that and stay level-headed when they arise?
A couple of things you can do to hedge against the uncertainty that comes with freelancing:
- Create an emergency fund. An emergency fund is money you save for rainy days. The rule of thumb is that your emergency fund should be easily accessible (such as in a savings account) and should cover all your expenses for the next 3-6 months in case of total income loss. It would be a good idea to have an emergency fund ready before you jump into freelancing full-time.
- Create multiple passive income streams. As a freelancer, you will be able to work on the things you love doing. Think about additional income opportunities like writing an e-book about something you’re deeply interested about, creating premium CMS themes, and selling downloadable graphic resources like icon sets and fonts. Consider things you will enjoy creating that also have the potential to earn you some passive income.
Can you run your own business?
As a freelance designer, you are a business owner first, designer second.
You have to do your taxes, do your own accounting (or hire an accountant), send invoices to clients, create business plans, make sure that your business is growing, manage projects, and much more. Are you willing to deal with the not-so-fun stuff that comes with full-time freelancing?
If you want to be a successful baker, you have to be good at baking. But if you want to run a successful bakery, you have to be good at business first and baking second.
As a freelancer, you aren’t simply creating things for people anymore, you are running your own business.
Here are articles you can read about the business side of freelancing:
- A Beginner’s Guide to the Business Side of Freelancing (Six Revisions)
- How to Take the Drama Out of Running Your Business (IttyBiz)
- 4 Essential Elements of Freelance Business Planning (FreelanceFolder)
- A Comprehensive Guide to Starting Your Freelance Career (FreelanceSwitch)
What to Do if You’re Not Ready to Make the Jump Yet
I know many of you are tired of being tied to one job, one source of income, and one location. You want more freedom.
However, don’t just suddenly drop everything you have now to become a freelancer. You don’t want the stress of having no clients, no job, and no income.
If you’re not yet 100% sure you’re ready to make a full-time freelancing commitment, you can start freelancing on the side: weekends, at night, etc.
It’s wiser to start by freelancing part time. This will give you time to build up your skills, your client base, and an emergency fund before you go make the leap into a full-time freelancing career.
* Thumbnail image source: Beach on Susak island, Croatia by Jasenka Petanjek.