Freelancing can seem like a glamorous and rewarding career, but it comes with its share of challenges. While it’s not the best choice for the faint of heart, if you’ve got the right qualities, and you have the drive and determination that it takes, you might just succeed.
So, are you ready to become a freelancer? Find out by asking yourself these questions.
Can You Budget?
Planning out your finances is crucial to living the life of a freelancer. Since you don’t get vacation time, health benefits, and you have to set aside your own money for taxes, you’ve got to take complete control over your bank accounts.
Some months you may have so many clients that you don’t know what to do with yourself, and other months you may have no clients at all. Planning for times like these, and looking ahead to ensure that your bills are paid and your responsibilities are taken care of is one of the keys to being a successful and prosperous contractor.
Keep in mind that you are also responsible for any overhead related to your profession, such as office space, supplies, and other work-related costs.
If possible, start freelancing on the side while you maintain another position as an employee. That way you can maintain your budget and financial stability while growing your portfolio.
Can You Sell Yourself?
It doesn’t matter that you are just an independent contractor and not a business, you’ll still need marketing. In order to find clients you’ll need to promote yourself through different means of advertising and networking, both of which play an important role in the viability of your career.
If you aren’t adept at promotions and marketing, you may need to invest some money into your business initially to get some help in those areas. You can hire another contractor or marketing firm to give you a hand, or you can try to handle it yourself.
There are a number of ways that you can promote yourself either for free or at a low cost until you have capital to invest into bigger, better, and more targeted advertisements. Some of these include:
If you aren’t learned in the ways of social media marketing, do some research on your own. The best way to get comfortable is to go ahead and start, so while social media can seem intimidating if it’s not something that you’re acquainted with, it’s not as hard as it looks.
Get yourself started on a couple of different platforms and look at what others are doing. A great place to start is to look at your competitors or fellow freelancers within your industry.
Attend industry events and increase your networking potential. You can even join local groups (such as a writers’ guild or book club) that can get you into the right social circles. You’re more likely to get clients from referrals if you put yourself out there.
You can place cheap and simple online ads that can meet just about any budget. Try to scope out sites that you think your potential clients would frequent. Be as specific as you can while targeting your potential customers, you want to show up where they are instead of wasting your money in hoping that they might see your ad.
Remember that no matter what you decide to go with, it should match your industry. If you are a web designer, go for platforms and ads that your clients can relate to. If you are a realtor, you will probably want to target different audiences than a writer or programmer.
What do You Really Need to Freelance?
When you first start out, it’s usually with a fairly small budget. Don’t worry about brand new equipment and furniture if you can go without it. Get the essentials and add to your inventory as you go.
For example, as a single freelancer, you probably don’t need to rent an office space right away. If you have an area in your home that you can use to work from, do some small renovations or upgrades to turn the space into an office and use it until you need to expand.
You can write off expenses such as furniture, office supplies, and even gas mileage, but remember that you don’t get that money back, you just aren’t taxed on it. Keep track of receipts, even if they’re just for coffee with a client, because it will all add up at the end of the year.
Stick to the basics, spend wisely, and track your write-offs so that you can turn a profit and maybe even have a little money to invest in your business next year. Be realistic about your needs instead of worrying about the newest technology or trends.
Can You Multitask?
Most freelancers have the ability to work on multiple projects at any given time. If you can’t switch between different projects for different industries throughout the day, freelancing may not be for you. It’s unlikely that, in the beginning, one project will keep you clothed and fed. You’ll need to be able to juggle different clients of clients with various needs just about every day in order to meet your financial goals.
You’ll also need to learn to manage your time. Whether it be personal time or working ours, you’ll have to designate times when you are available to clients and times when you are not. While balancing your family, friends, and clients, it’s important to be able to focus on your work when you say that you will.
To be a freelancer, you need to be versatile, driven, and focused. Passion alone won’t get you very far. It takes determination and dedication to split up your time and to force yourself to focus on a given task.
Are You Willing to Learn?
Employees benefit from training courses and are usually given time to learn new systems or industry changes. As a freelancer, you aren’t going to be paid for those things, but they are still of the utmost importance.
You want to offer your clients the best services that you can, and in order to do so, you’ll need to dedicate time, and sometimes even money, to learning new programs, keeping up on industry trends, and researching the latest tools of the trade.
Therein lies one of the most important questions: can you set time aside to learn if you aren’t getting paid for it? If you can, that’s a good start. If you can’t, you may have to accept that you could miss out on some clients because you haven’t kept up on the latest technology or changes.
Aside from upgrading your skills, you may also have to learn some new ones. For example, if you are a social media marketing specialist, and your client wants you to start writing blogs, you may need to learn how to use a blogging platform, how to edit photos, and how to write quality content. These are skills that you can, in turn, offer to new clients and add to your portfolio.
If there are any skills that are beyond your reach, or that require a professional, such as a graphic designer, you may want to contract the work out to them.
Is Your Profession a Career or a Hobby?
While we all want to do what we love, what we love may not make a viable career. Sometimes, what we want to do may be better suited for a hobby in the hopes that it may eventually grow into a career. That way, if it doesn’t we still enjoy what we are doing even if we don’t do it full-time.
You need to do some serious thinking about this one. Although there are many freelancers out there with interesting job titles, you need to look at whether or not there is a market for what you are trying to sell. It’s not to say that you aren’t really good at what you do, but if there’s no market, or the market is just too small, you may end up in a tight and uncomfortable financial situation.
Think long and hard about what you want to sell, and do some research on your target market. While you might be really, really good at knitting mittens, it may not be a full-time career. Why? Your product is only in demand for one season out of four every year, and your competition is going to be fierce.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t knit and sell mittens, but perhaps you should do it as something you enjoy as opposed to something that you hope to live off of.
Whatever you decide to do, remember that as a freelancer, you should always have:
Have you ever freelanced, or considered becoming a contractor? What’s one tip you wish you had known before starting?
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