Freelancing seems like a freeing career choice that lets you work flexible hours and be your own boss. While there are positive aspects that may make freelancing ideal for you, there are some factors you should consider before winging it full-time.
Lone Star Status
You are likely used to the hustle and bustle of the office or classroom, depending on where you’ve just come from. Working as a freelancer means spending long days by yourself. The social isolation isn’t for everyone and might take a toll on your morale, focus, and motivation levels.
Some days, replying to emails and checking social media pages will form the crux of your home office socialization. You might have to make a mid-day errand run or spend slotted hours at a “mobile office” location with free Wi-Fi (like Starbucks or Panera Bread) to boost your inspiration and keep lonely feelings at bay. That said, according to this infographic, 82% of freelancers listed working when and where they pleased as one of their most fulfilling work factors.
Let’s say you’re one of the estimated 53 million Americans freelancing. That means setting your own deadlines and holding your own feet to the fire. Staying self-motivated can get tough. While the passion might be there to jump-start you in the beginning, keeping your energy levels high and productivity efficient could get harder as you go.
Wearing Every Hat
Public relations manager, HR administrator, client liaison: You now get to do it all. From billing to self-marketing, you will be responsible for the jobs that you don’t like right along with the ones you love. You will have to be skilled in handling your customers just as much as you are in providing services for them. Freelancing will not afford you the luxury of solely focusing on your area of talent.
Uncle Sam’s Cut
You must be prepared to pay much higher taxes as a freelancer than you did while working for a company. There is also much more work involved since you will be filing and paying taxes completely on your own. Instead of having taxes pulled from every paycheck and filing with the W-2 that you receive at the end of the year, you will have to fill out a 1099 and pay your taxes quarterly.
Beyond the Billable Hours
Much of your time will be spent outside of billable projects. You will have to find the clients, communicate with the clients, and bill the clients — jobs that do not earn money. Until you get in an efficient rhythm, you will find that a lot of your time is spent on building up your business, and the overall hourly rate you make might be lower than you expected.
Freelancing can infiltrate every part of your life, just like your life could infiltrate any part of your freelancing. It might be difficult, but you will have to firmly establish times for working, time for family, and time for relaxation. It is likely that your family will request your help during your work-day since you are “home” and “available.” It will also be very easy to work through lunches, dinners, and possibly even from dawn ’til dusk. There is no time card, office hours, beginning, or end of the work day unless you set and enforce it yourself.
As a freelancer, you will likely find your pay is less consistent than a salary. It’s possible you will consistently earn more, but it is likely you will experience high months and dry months. To help offset this aspect of freelancing, you will want to have several months of expenses (or salary) saved in a rainy day account. If you don’t set aside emergency funds, you might find yourself forced back to the office when freelancing has a rough month or two.
Freelancing can be hard, but it tends to get easier as you establish yourself. If you can juggle your priorities well, are a self-motivated learner, and love to experience a lot of variety in your daily duties, then you may really thrive as a freelancer.