By Catherine Lang-Cline
Maybe you’ve been downsized, maybe you’re just getting tired of your current job. Either way, the thought of going out on your own has crossed your mind more than once. But how do you know if it’s a good idea?
I’ve been in your shoes. In my career I’ve worked for agencies, corporations and for myself. Now, as the owner of a company I can’t help but feel those years of freelancing really helped me on my journey. But the freelance life is definitely is not for everyone. Here are four qualities you must possess to be ready to cut the tether of a steady paycheck and make freelancing work:
You have the stomach for it. There are few things more stressful than being a highly successful freelancer. You will have so much work to do, you might not even be sure how you’re going to be able to do it all. You’re under time limits and constant pressure. The only thing worse is when things are slow. Now you have no work to do and no money coming in. That’s very stressful too and believe me, it will happen. The key to both situations is to remember that this is temporary. The ups and downs of freelance life can make you a bit seasick, but once you have your sea legs and an iron stomach, you are good to go.
You’re willing to market yourself. Your success as a freelancer is going to hinge on nurturing and building a client base, which is going to depend upon people knowing about you and your great work. To keep your pipeline filled you’re going to need to market yourself. Even if quick emails, periodic coffee meetings or marketing pieces are all you have time for, you need to be consistent in keeping your name out there among those who can hire you. And it never hurts to find a great temp service. I had a favorite one that I used to work with that could keep me busy during an off week or two.
You’re able to price your services and collect payments. This is a challenge for a lot of freelancers. Your business will fail unless you can keep the invoice pipeline moving. Start by pricing yourself correctly, getting some help if you’re unsure how to do it. But remember to be flexible. Design might not cost as much as production, or a long-term gig could be a lower hourly rate than a short-term project. Be professional in sending out estimates and invoices. The more routine you make the process the less time you’ll spend chasing down payments. You might not have to wait until the project is complete to send an invoice either. Partial payments are quite common. Include your terms of payment on the invoice or client agreement.
You’re good at saving money. You’re work is done and you get paid! Great, what are you going to do with all of that money? Save it. Sorry if that sounds boring, but if you cannot save, you cannot freelance. Not only will you run into trouble paying your monthly bills, come April 15 you are going to have to write a big check to the government. Really big if you have not been paying quarterly. I have seen many newbie freelancers get burned by not saving a dime for taxes. Going to try and hide it? Guess again, because all of the companies you have worked for want to file you as an expense. Save your money. And as a matter of fact, write down every mile traveled and keep a receipt for every expense. That will soften the blow a little.
If you can see yourself accomplishing these four steps, freelancing may well be a good next step for you, and deserve more exploration as you build your career path.