Becoming a freelancer is a more popular option than ever before — one study by Intuit predicted that 40% of Americans will be working solo by 2020 — but it’s not a lifestyle for everyone. If you’re currently pondering whether to swap your regular job for a life of freedom and self-sufficiency, here are some points to bear in mind as you make your decision.
Let’s start with the obvious: you’re going to need a lot of self-motivation and self-discipline. Unless you’re near the top of your field, you won’t have a queue of clients waiting outside your door. Instead, you’ll have to spend time building relationships and pitching ideas, and this is a part of the job that you’ll always have to deal with. That’s not to say you have to be an outgoing extrovert to freelance — you can bring in work through a well-designed portfolio as well as direct phone calls — but you need to be prepared to put in the groundwork in whatever way suits you best.
You need to be flexible and enjoy doing something different every day. Yes, you can spend Monday morning walking your dog through the park; but you might also have to work late on Sunday night to be able to afford it. It is possible to work regular office hours as a freelancer, but chances are that you’ll also need to be prepared to stretch these limits every once in a while, particular when you’re just starting out. If you have a lot of weekend and evening commitments that can’t be rearranged or postponed at short notice, freelancing is going to be trickier for you.
You’re going to have to do your own paperwork too, from sending out invoices to filling out tax forms. If administrative tasks bring you out in a cold sweat, this is something to bear in mind. The reality is that most of these admin jobs aren’t too daunting, and you can always call in professional help when necessary, but it’s something else to consider. Whether becoming a freelancer is viable depends on your circumstances as well as your personality:can you afford a temporary income drop while you build up a client base? Do you have others who depend on you? Is there room to set up a working office in your house?
Ultimately freelancing is a great career choice for people who are happy to have the buck stop with them. You will be responsible for your working hours, the type of work you do, the style of your office chair and how much time to devote to staff training. You won’t have anyone telling you when to come back from lunch or what to wear; nor will you have anyone to fill up your inbox or fix your computer for you. This freedom will either appeal to you or put you off, which should go a long way to helping you come to a decision.
The easiest and safest way to decide if you can make a living as a freelancer is to test it out on a part-time basis. Spend the occasional evening or lunchtime looking for work and hawking your talents around — if you have a flexible job, you might be able to reduce your regular hours as your freelance work increases. This approach also lets you test the waters for your chosen sector: you can get an idea of how much freelance work is available in your industry, as well as how many freelancers you’ll be competing against, and whether or not you’ll be able to support yourself full-time.