• Advice

4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Going Freelance

The number of workers who are going freelance is on the rise! Millions of traditional workers take the freelance leap each year -- are you or one of your friends next?

As the number of independent workers increases, the idea of being your own boss is becoming more and more enticing. In fact, 90% of freelancers are happy working for themselves!

But a successful freelancer is a prepared freelancer. It’s not going to be for everyone, and there are a number of freelance-specific challenges that you should consider before quitting your day job.

So before you make the freelance leap, spend some time reflecting on these 4 questions:

1. Why are you freelancing?

Freelancing is about achieving meaningful independence. It’s about building a life that will allow you to be your best you. There are a lot of reasons to start freelancing, but you need to know exactly why it’s the right career choice for you.

Imagine your dream lifestyle and take note of what it entails. Maybe your dream is to spend more time with your kids or go on week-long road trips without notifying anyone. Maybe you have a number of different passions and want to pursue multiple work interests rather than being locked into a single career path.

Do you want to freelance full-time or part-time? Do you want to grow your career or is this the first stage of retirement?

A freelance life will only work for you if you know why you’re freelancing in the first place.

2. What are your key strengths?

Once you’ve established that freelancing is the way to go, you’ll need to spend some time thinking about your skills.

We all have the capacity for excellence, but we aren’t all excellent all the time. What is your skill? When was the last time you really exercised it? Do you need more training or a brief refresher?

If you’re currently working full-time, dedicate a few hours a week to a skill upgrade or seek out other freelancers to see what kind of training or skills they’ve found particularly useful. Remember, the greater your skills, the higher you can set your prices.

Make a list that includes all of your skills. Whether they’re skills you enjoy and exercise daily or skills that you don’t like exercising all that much, include them nonetheless. By the end, you’ll have a list of skills for which you can legitimately charge a fee.

Consider the personality traits that might enhance these skills. This is all part and parcel of your freelance identity.

3. What are your customer’s needs?

In her book The Freelancer’s Bible, Freelancers Union founder Sara Horowitz outlines the three essentials of getting clients:

  • Have empathy in your analysis of what your clients need.
  • Match your skills to their needs.
  • Distill this into a pitch of utter simplicity.

Remember, you’re analyzing what your clients actually need, not what you think they should need. If you’re marketing yourself as “detail-oriented” for a client that wants things done “fast, not perfect” you’re missing the point.

Consider feedback on your work: what others say when they recommend or compliment you, why your services have been declined in the past, or why others in your field are considered great or not-so-great.

Lastly, come up with a single sentence pitch. You’ve established your freelance identity, now it’s time to sum up “what you do” in one sentence.

Here are some good examples from The Freelancer’s Bible:

  • “I help people prepare to publish.”
  • “I design costumes, restore textiles, and lecture on fashion history.”
  • “I develop websites, with a special focus on helping small businesses move their online presence to the next level.”

4. Can your bank account handle the transition?

If you haven’t told your old job to buzz off yet, you might want to hold on to it for another couple of months. Before you become a full-time freelancer, it would be best to have at least one gig lined up and enough savings to last you your first few months of freelance life.

The importance of savings can’t be stressed enough. It’s common practice for there to be a 30-60 day lag before you get paid. So even if you have gigs lined up from day one, you might still be in trouble if you don’t have enough money in the bank.

It’s great to love your work, but you can’t survive on love. It’s great to have passion in your work, but that won’t pay the rent either. What you have to offer has tremendous value and you deserve to be paid appropriately for it. Don’t get caught up in completing projects for “exposure” or let anyone convince you that your work is worth less than you’ve determined. Remember, you’re the boss, it’s your business, and you call the shots.

Freelancers, what advice do you have for people thinking about making the leap?