FREELANCING IS KIND OF LIKE BEING YOUR OWN BOSS. But it's not rainbows and butterflies. You need to hustle and you're constantly at the whim of clients.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE MAKING THE SWITCH TO A FREELANCE LIFESTYLE.
If you’re thinking of ditching the 9-5 and working independently you’re not alone. According to a survey by Freelancers Union and Upwork, one in three Americans are now freelancing, and 50% say they wouldn’t trade their freelance career for a more traditional job even if it paid more.
Of course, it’s not all that surprising considering that freelancing allows workers to choose when and where they want to work and build their career around their lifestyle.
The independence freelancing provides means it’s often an ideal choice for women who are juggling the demands of a career and motherhood, and research shows that the majority of full-time freelancers (53%) are now women.
Flexible doesn’t necessarily equal easy, though, and going freelance also means taking on a lot of additional responsibility. So whether you’re a writer, photographer or web designer, here’s what you need to know before taking the plunge.
1. YOU MUST CREATE A STRONG PERSONAL BRAND
Having a strong personal brand is important for any professional, but even more so when you’re a freelancer and are essentially marketing yourself.
If you’d like to start freelancing full-time, spend some time thinking about your marketable skills and qualifications as well as what sets you apart from the competition. Once you know what sort of image you want to project, you can start building your personal brand using social media, blogs or your own personal website.
2. NETWORKING IS ESSENTIAL
As a freelancer, the wider your network, the easier it will be to find jobs. One study that looked at how freelancers get gigs found that 81% of freelancers refer work to fellow freelancers and 37% trade or barter services.
Fortunately, 65% of freelancers also say technology has made it easier to find jobs. Before you leave your current job behind, start building up your network by joining relevant groups and online forums, connecting with like-minded professionals through sites like LinkedIn and Twitter, and attending conferences and industry events.
3. YOU’LL BE ABLE TO SET YOUR OWN RATES
As a freelancer you’ll have the freedom to set your own rates, but you’ll also be responsible for handling everything from your taxes and insurance to your pension plan, so when deciding how much to charge, you should consider both your budget and your time.
Of course when you’re just starting out it can be difficult to accurately estimate how long a project will take to complete, so time-tracking tools like Harvest can be useful for figuring out how long each task actually takes you and how much you should be charging.
4. SPREAD YOUR RISK AND HAVE AN EMERGENCY FUND
The Freelancer Union report shows that 87% of freelancers earn their income from more than one source in a given month. Why? As a freelancer you never want to put all your eggs in one basket, because if your main source of income dries up unexpectedly, you’ll be in a very difficult position.
With that said, having more than one client also means sending out multiple invoices and chasing more than one person for money at the end of each month, so it’s important to have an emergency fund to cover any unexpected expenses and stay afloat when clients don’t pay on time.
5. YOU SHOULD HAVE A DEDICATED WORKSPACE
Although freelancing means you can work anywhere from your local coffee shop to the living room sofa, it’s still important to have a dedicated workspace where you know you won’t be distracted by kids, visitors, non-work-related phone calls or household tasks. Having your own office will also help you separate your work responsibilities from your personal life.
This could mean designating a room in your home for work, renovating a garage or even looking for a coworking space in your area, which is an increasingly popular option for freelancers.
6. SETTING BOUNDARIES IS IMPORTANT
When you’re freelancing it can be harder to draw a line between work hours and leisure time, but answering emails at all hours of the day or taking on extra work without being adequately compensated can quickly lead to burnout.
Set some boundaries with your clients early on by letting them know when you will be available to discuss projects and then sticking to those hours. Also, before starting on a new project, make sure both you and the client are clear on what will be included so you can charge for any unforeseen extras and avoid working for free.
7. FREELANCING CAN SOMETIMES BE LONELY
Although freelancing does give you enormous independence, it can sometimes be a bit lonely too. If you’re working from home, you’ll probably end up spending the better part of your days alone, and meeting up with colleagues for a quick drink after work will require more planning than it once did.
With this in mind, you should consider whether working in a less social environment would suit you. Of course, there are plenty of ways to socialize outside of work, from volunteering to taking up new hobbies to scheduling lunch dates, but you will need to make more of an effort to stay social and connected once you start working for yourself full-time.
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Are you a full-time freelancer? What tricks do you use to stay organized, motivated and connected? Let us know in the comments.
An original version of this article appeared on Career Contessa.