The idea of taking that big leap from working in a regular 9 to 5 job to freelancing is the stuff of inspirational blogs and self-help books. So many things have already been written about the benefits of being a freelancer, from being able to work at your own pace to not having to answer to horrible superiors ever again. It’s basically about the ability to choose your own professional destiny without the encumbrance or politics of an office environment.
Before you make the big decision to answer the call of freelancing, however, it is important to be aware of some of the things that all those articles don’t always tell you about this career choice. Often, people who write about freelancing just cover the positives and skim over the challenges that individuals have to overcome in order to successfully transition to this lifestyle.
To help you prepare for such an important career decision, we’ll bring you up to speed with some of the things that you need to consider. We’ll get started by talking about financial matters.
You may experience the boom and bust cycle
When you are new to freelancing—especially when you’re still in that stage when you haven’t really established a reputation yet—you may experience months when you have a ton of stuff to do, and on the flip side, you may also go through leaner months when there doesn’t seem to be enough work to go around. This boom and bust, feast and famine cycle is well-documented in the freelancing world.
To prepare for the next bust period, you should build your emergency fund just so you will have buffer cash that you can use to protect yourself with. But this doesn’t have to be your situation every time. You can think of contingency projects or try looking for leads earlier in the year so you can commit to taking on new projects when your current ones end.
One great way to make sure that you’ll have a continuous stream of projects is to network with other freelancers, who can refer you to new clients when they are swamped with work themselves. You can also ask referrals from your past clients, who can help point other people in your direction.
Whatever you do, never ever work for free. Those “interesting” clients who are asking you to write articles or design infographics for them in exchange for “exposure”? Avoid them like the plague.
You are the boss of you
So, you just can’t wait to be king, eh? Free to run around all day, and free to do it all your way? While one of the things that may draw you into freelancing is the thought that you will no longer have to work for a boss, in reality you’ll actually be working for a new boss: yourself.
That means you’ll mostly be doing everything yourself, from business development and marketing to writing for your business blog and liaising with clients. You will be the one who will have to face all of the clients’ demands and requests, be it revising the outputs already delivered or asking for amendments in the fees you negotiated because the scope of work has changed.
One thing that you really need to master when you choose this career path is assertiveness. It means being able to communicate your thoughts and desires to other people without stepping on their rights or subjecting them to abuse. Being assertive is the opposite of taking a passive stance, wherein a person places greater weight on others’ thoughts and desires than they do on their own. It is also not the same as aggressiveness, in which a person disregards other people’s rights completely. You can learn more about cultivating assertiveness by reading this fantastic assertiveness guide for freelancers.
Having no discipline is fatal for your business
As mentioned, when you become a freelancer you become your own boss. This requires a tremendous amount of discipline on your part. And while it is true that you’ll most likely work at your own pace, you’re still going to need to stay on top of deadlines. You can’t commit to finishing a project by a certain date only to renege on your promise to go on a road trip instead. If you can’t even trust yourself to deliver, why would anyone else?
The fact is that when you do freelance work, you are still working; you are still running a business. And if you don’t treat your freelancing job like the source of your livelihood that it is, it simply won’t survive. Nothing kills someone’s reputation faster than an unprofessional attitude. You need to learn self-discipline.
Because you will be staying at home most of the time, presumably, it is also important to draw the line between work and leisure hours. Never be tempted to sleep, do household chores, or Netflix and chill when you’re supposed to be working on your projects. If you’re living with your family, make sure that they understand this as well so that they don’t bother you constantly when you’re in your workspace.
The road to successful freelancing is often paved with difficulties. But by having the right mindset and cultivating the right attitude, your transition to this challenging yet exciting career path will be so much easier and more rewarding.