I find myself constantly daydreaming during the workday about quitting my job to go freelance. I like my job, but I don’t feel there’s a lot of growth opportunities for me at my current company and I keep having to work on the same projects again and again. I feel like freelancing could be a great way for me to develop new skills and to have a bit more flexibility in my day-to-day life, but I’m scared to leave my salary and benefits behind. Can you shed some light on what freelancing is exactly and how I can know if that career move would be a good fit for me?
The days of a nine-to-five being the “best” career path are long gone. There’s no one right way to have a career and these days many people are thriving by pursuing a freelance career. There are a lot of perks associated with freelancing. You can set your own working hours, choose your rate, and decide exactly who you want to work with and what projects you want to work on. It’s a pretty empowering career path to take. That being said, there are some major downsides associated with freelancing and it can be quite a shock to the system to switch to working for yourself after having a steady salaried job with benefits.
Freelancing isn’t the right fit for everyone, but it may be the perfect fit for you. Still on the fence? We’re going to break down what freelancing is and how you can tell if it’s the right fit for you. That way, if you do make the leap into freelancing, you know exactly what to expect.
What is Freelancing?
Because flexibility is all the rage these days, there’s a lot of talk around side hustles, freelancing, and working as a solopreneur. These terms are often used interchangeably, but freelancing has some key characteristics worth being aware of.
To start, freelancers do a specific type of work. When you’re a freelancer, you run your own business, but you don’t sell products. Instead you sell services. Freelancing can involve consulting and strategy work, as well as execution. For example, if you have experience working in marketing you could consult on a brand’s digital marketing strategy and could create a plan for increasing their social media following. Your client could then have someone from their team execute that plan or you could execute that plan. For less experienced freelancers, they may only focus on the execution work.
You can work with as many clients as you’d like as a freelancer. You may choose to work with just a handful of clients on larger projects or you may work with a dozen different clients on smaller projects. Some clients will want to book you for ongoing engagements and others may only call you when they have a temporary project they need help with.
The work you do as a freelancer, is likely very similar to the work you did in your last full-time job (if you want to utilize that same skill set), but you also take on a lot of administrative work in order to run your business. Sales, operations, and accounting all fall on you when you work for yourself.
How Can I Tell if Freelancing is Right for Me?
Again—freelancing isn’t for everyone. While you don’t need to meet every characteristic we’re about to break down, you do need to feel confident that you can work towards them as you make progress in your freelance career.
You Have a Financial Backup Plan in Place
The first few months—if not year—of running a freelance business can be difficult financially. It takes time to build up a steady client base and to start earning enough money to support yourself. Before you quit your job to start freelancing, take a good hard look at your savings.
You need to have at least three months of living expenses saved up, but six months to a year would be even better. That’s not to say you won’t earn any money during those first few months, but freelancers don’t get a paycheck every two weeks like salaried employees do. Many businesses pay freelancers on a net-30 (30 days after invoicing) or net-60 payment (60 days after invoicing) schedule, so even if you fill up your schedule with a ton of work right away, it can take some time for payments to start coming in.
It’s important to have savings not just to make paying your bills easier, but to make focusing on building your business easier. If you’re worried about how you’re going to make your rent payment this month, you won’t be able to turn your full attention to your business and might make decisions that hurt your business in exchange for a quick payday.
You Feel Comfortable Selling Yourself
If you dread job interviews or selling anything, then freelancing isn’t for you. You need to sell yourself to potential clients on an ongoing basis which can involve a lot of mini job interviews. Some sales will be easier than others, but you can’t be shy when you work for yourself as a freelancer. You need to be comfortable networking and explaining the value you can bring to the table with your services.
You Excel at Client Services
Speaking of services, you need to be good at the services you offer if you want a sustainable career as a freelancer. There’s a very big misconception in the freelancing world that working for yourself means you get to call the shots 100% of the time. You can choose what projects you want to work on when you walk away from a client, but if you want to build strong relationships (which can lead to referrals), you need to excel at client services. Chances are, always doing things your way won’t work for your clients. They may prefer Slack communications when you prefer email. They may have an invoicing process that varies from the one you prefer to use. They may structure their creative briefs differently than you do.
You can pick and choose what battles you want to fight, but before you do, you need to think about how you can best service your clients. Fitting in with their existing processes and systems can make their lives a lot easier, which is why they hired you.
You’re a Strong Independent Worker
Be honest here—do you work well independently? Do you need a boss checking in on you to make sure you meet your deadlines? When you work from home, do you get as much done as when you’re in the office? Some people need the structure of having a boss who assigns them work, is there to help them know what tasks to prioritize, and can mentor them as they work towards career goals and milestones. There’s nothing wrong with those preferences, but freelancing requires being able to work independently and takes a lot of discipline. Take some time to reflect on if that’s a working environment you would thrive in or not.
You Can Stomach Inconsistency
Does the idea of not having a consistent paycheck keep you awake at night? Does not knowing what your next project will be fill you with anxiety? If you didn’t bat an eye at either of those questions, then the inconsistency of freelancing may not bother you. There can be a lot of ups and downs with freelancing, which many people find challenging and thrilling. If you think the trade off of a lack of consistency is worth the potential gain, then you’re likely ready to push any fears about freelancing to the side so you can get your hustle on.
The great thing about freelancing is, you don’t have to quit your full-time job to test the waters. You can carve out some time on nights and weekends to take on a freelance project or two while you learn the ropes. Testing out your sales skills and service offerings while getting all of your internal processes in place can be a lot less stressful if you have a full-time paycheck coming in. Testing out freelancing when the stakes are low gives you a better opportunity to evaluate whether or not freelancing is a good fit for you. As a bonus, if you do decide you want to freelance full-time, then you have already laid the foundation for your new business. You can also set aside your freelance earnings to help you prepare financially for this new chapter in your life.
One great way to get ready to launch a successful freelance business is to learn the ins and outs of freelancing. Our upcoming course All About the Hustle: Freelancing Demystified is designed to help you streamline the process of getting your freelance business rolling. Save yourself years of trial and error by learning how to run a successful freelance business from a seasoned freelancer.
There’s no reason your freelance business can’t hit the ground running.