When you first decide to make the change to working freelance, the world suddenly becomes that little bit more thrilling, and you genuinely feel as if a new and exciting career awaits you, with the promise of more freedom and better pay. After all, who wants to work for the man? If you go freelance you will be working in the areas of your industry that you enjoy, planning your own career path and choosing the clients that you want to work with. Right?
This of course is the ideal and it is certainly achievable. But whilst most people daydream about that ideal freelancing gig, working from home or in a coffee shop on a project that they enjoy and which will bring them awards and acclaim from their peers whilst allowing them time off to spend with friends or family, the reality can sometimes be very different. This is especially true when you first start out. So, without putting a downer on your freelance plans, here are a few things to bear in mind before you quit your job and take the big leap.
(1) Flexible Working Hours Can Also Mean No Working Hours – This is obviously the biggest worry of all for freelancers. The dream is to have more time off but what if you experience long periods with no work at all? No matter what your industry is there will be periods from time to time, particularly when you first start freelancing, when you can’t find any work at all. How confident are you in your ability to find contracts and clients? Will you have savings set aside when you first start out and will you have the discipline to put some money away when you are working, to cover yourself in the lean periods?
(2) Discipline – It’s not just tucking away savings that will require discipline. Any freelancer, whether they work from home or from their own office, will need to be able to ignore numerous distractions. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Firstly, there’s the distraction of the entire online world. If your work involves a computer, never let yourself go online to browse. Ever. It will ruin your day and your business. Don’t let it suck you in. Next, if you work from home are you able to politely, but firmly tell your wife / husband / kids to get lost and leave you alone? No matter how many times you stress to them that certain hours are work hours, you will still end up being disturbed. It might be that the dog needs walking or the washing machine is broken or that the kid has lost his Bumblebee Transformer toy. No matter. Make sure they understand that you are an immoveable object.
(3) Being Your Own Boss Means the Buck Stops With You – Yay, you’re finally your own boss. No more being told what to do, or when to do it. No more having to do the jobs they tell you. Unfortunately, that also means that you’re the one who has to find the work, you’re the one who is responsible for the work and you’re the one who has to deal with the clients. Firstly, work isn’t going to fall in your lap. You’re going to have to be proactive in finding clients and contracts. All that time that you are no longer spending in a tedious office environment - now you can spend it getting out there and … networking. Whoopee! Now you’re going to experience the joys of networking events, of small talk and of selling yourself and your company. And after that, once you’ve won the contract and started work, you’re the one who has to deal with the client who phones you every day with a new idea for the project, or a ‘slight rethink’ of what you agreed. You’re the one who has to decide what to do when they tell you they’re not happy with the project and don’t want to pay. You might be escaping office politics but you’re going to need to develop a whole new set of people skills.
If this all sounds a bit ominous, don’t worry. These are the negatives. Going freelance is the best thing I’ve ever done and I’ll be writing about it here over the next few weeks. Meanwhile I’m off to look for that Bumblebee Transformer…
Author Bio: Alex Simmonds is a freelance journalist and copywriter living in the UK. He likes to write about cricket and jazz but these days seems to be mostly writing about search engine optimisation.