6 things to know before going freelance

Oct 7, 2015

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

Freelance is an enchanting word. It slinks in with vague, attractive promises of all the freedom and flexibility that you could want from a job (or life in general).

It teases you like a seductive blonde pulling off a silk glove, caressing your mind with wild fantasies of working in pyjamas, Loose Women on in the background and days where you knock off at lunchtime and go to the pub.

However, things like these aren’t always as good as they seem on the surface – like Dorothy exposing the Wizard in the Emerald City, countless freelancers have seen behind the curtain and realised that this is not the work situation for them.

There are a variety of reasons for this, so it’s worth asking yourself a few serious questions and coming up with honest answers before you quit your job and run for the hills (or your living room).

Do you know how to manage your payments?

Managing your own payments (as opposed to an employer doing it for you) is a skill that has to be learnt if you’ve never gone out on your own before.

This means that you have to know how to ask for payment (because some clients will always pay late) and what your legal options are should you require them.

Cash flow forecasting is also a key skill because you may be juggling payments you have received with those you know you’ll receive in the future – the last thing you need is a cash flow gap developing.

Do you have enough money saved?

You might suffer from a bit of a slow start when you embark upon your freelancing career.

Unless you have a good professional record already under your belt, people might not take a chance on you because the quality of your work won’t be proven.

With this in mind, you’ll need to save at least some money to support yourself until you get your first job, which could be six months away for all you know.

You may even have to work for free at the beginning to build up your portfolio. Make sure you can afford the rent and food during that time.

Are you going to be able to find work?

Finding work as a freelancer is an art because it’s by no means a certainty that you’ll be able to secure it on a regular basis.

This is a very uneven way of working – one job could make you enough to live on for six months, while another might only cover the next food shop.

You need to know how to find work when you need it, whether you’re utilising contacts and networks, putting your name out there on social media or joining a freelance work-specific middleman website like Elance or oDesk.

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Can you be flexible with your time?

A greater level of time flexibility may well have been one of the factors that made freelancing seem like a good idea in the first place, but what happens if a client calls with an urgent project that would mean you having to pull an all-nighter?

Would you be willing to do that?

It’s not just about being able to take the afternoon off if you fancy it; it’s also about having to work outside of regular hours, including at the weekends and at night.

If you don’t think you can be that flexible, this might not be the career path for you.

Do you know what you’re worth?

One of the more difficult aspects of freelancing is determining what your services are worth.

You might have a very high opinion of yourself, but other people might not think that your experience and skills make you worth the price you’re quoting them.

Try and find out what established freelancers are charging for their services and assess whether you’re worth more or less than them. Alternatively, look for feedback from clients if you can.

Do you really want this?

It’s a big step for anyone to go completely freelance because, as we’ve previously noted, there’s no guarantee of success.

You need to work out if you really want to go freelance or whether it’s just a whim that’ll come back to (frost)bite you in the depths of winter when you’ve quit your job and aren’t making enough to turn the heating on.

It may be better to try and juggle freelance work with your regular job for a few months to see if a) you like it and b) you can do it in the long-term. If the answer to both questions is yes, go for it!

Alex Sebuliba is a digital marketing expert who is passionate about self-improvement. Alex loves to read, write, and share anything to do with personal development and one day hopes to be a renowned motivational speaker. You can get in touch with Alex via Twitter: @AlexBradnum