Self-employment comes in many forms, whether you’re working on retainer or onsite for a single client, dividing your hours among multiple clients, or running company with a roster of customers. Many who have freelanced would agree that there both rewards and challenges, and it simply suits some people better than working for someone else.
Thinking about making the leap? Let’s take a look at the some of the considerations in deciding whether the freelance life is right for you:
Freedom to Choose vs. the Feast or Famine
Pro: You can choose your project and who you work with.
Con: Maintaining steady work can be difficult.
Back in my recruiting days, I saw the job market fluctuate several times over the course of 8 years, shifting between an abundance of jobs for creative freelancers and little talent to fill them – to an abundance of freelancers and not enough jobs. Many different aspects can impact the market, and these fluctuations can be overwhelming and typically the reason many decide to leave the entrepreneurial world.
If flexibility to choose who you work with, and what types of work you engage in is your priority, be sure to set yourself up for success by actively learning the different trends, seasons, or other factors that might influence your industry or market.
Unlimited Earning Potential – If You’re Willing To Ask For It
Pro: You get to set your own rate and path for growth.
Con: You have to become great at asking for money.
Money is almost always a factor in the decision to go freelance, whether it’s a concern over not being able to generate enough to make a sustainable living, or making the move because you feel underpaid in your full-time role and know you can make more billing your own hours. Freelancing gives you the power to look at what the market commands and set your own rates accordingly.
But the flip side of that is that you have to be comfortable asking people for money and communicating why your pricing is what it is. Asking for money, or being steadfast in your operating guidelines when a client wants an extension on their invoice can be uncomfortable, but in business it’s essential if you want to stay afloat.
Be Ready to Take the Good With the Bad
Pro: As the face of the company, when you receive praise, it’s all about you.
Con: As the face of the company, when you receive criticism, it’s all about you.
One of the the most difficult things about freelancing is that when a client is unhappy with something (and it WILL happen), it’s all directed towards you – there’s no more bigger company face to hide behind, in most cases. You have to be willing to problem solve, negotiate, occasionally settle for less than you’d like in the name of your reputation, and take the bad with the good. The upside of this is that when praise comes your way for a job well done, you can take a big chunk of ownership.
It’s important to ask for feedback, references, and testimonials too, particularly with service-based businesses, as people rely heavily on referrals and recommendations when making a purchasing decision.
Thinking it’s time to pursue a career shift into freelancing and join the ranks of the independently employed? Here are a few guidelines to get you started off on the right foot.
Guidelines to Help you Shift Careers
Set up systems to track everything. This is so important, and will serve as your basis for determining what is, and what is not working in your operation, and where you need to make changes accordingly. Where are your customers finding you and converting from? What services sell the best?
Hire a reliable accountant. This is not a ‘table it for later’ item – this is a ‘go no further until you’ve checked this off the list’ necessity. You do not want to be sorting through invoices, expenses, and inadequate quarterly payments come tax time. This is especially true in your first year, when you may likely file as both a 1099 and a W2 from your previous employer.
Get laser-focused on who your target customer is. Even though this can shift throughout the lifecycle of your freelance business, you have to know going into it who it is you want to serve, and what you can offer them. Don’t shoot too broad, and don’t squeeze too narrow – ideally, somewhere in between is your target market, and the more niche or specialized you are, the more success you’ll enjoy from your marketing efforts.
Create a professional digital presence. Even if you haven’t yet made the leap, start putting the word out there around what you (will) do, and build a reputation for yourself, particularly if you’re pursuing a freelance venture outside of your current career (like I did). Then when you’re ready to take on clients, you have an established online presence and some credibility. Start building up a digital brand using tools like LinkedIn’s personal and company pages, social media, or any of the basic website building tools out there. If thought leadership is part of your marketing plan, create and share relevant content on platforms like Medium and LinkedIn.
Freelancing can be incredibly rewarding and profitable, but like job searching or career changing of any kind, it involves careful strategy and planning, and understanding where you do your best work, what your core skills are, and how you can use those to bring value to a particular audience.
Need help building a solid brand and high-impact digital presence? Contact us!