For most of us, freelancing full time seems like a dream come true. We get to be our own boss, work our own hours, and are responsible for our own success. It all sounds great – and it is, but freelancing full-time isn’t for everyone.
While some freelancers thrive on being their own boss, others find that they’re not as good at working for themselves as they were working for a company, or in their 9 to 5 job.
A lot of people thrive on working full-time in a traditional office setting. Whether it’s because they love working in teams, like to bounce ideas off each other, and be able to share a joke with a colleague sitting in the cubicle next to them, or because they are too used to it to be independent, there are people who may not be suited for the freelancer’s life.
So before you take the plunge, consider the following aspects of a freelancer’s life to see if it is your cup of tea, things like…
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1. You’ll be working alone (A lot!)
Freelancing can be a lonely profession. While previously you work right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of an office environment, now you’re working from your home, isolated from society.
The kids will be at school, your significant other would be at work and you will definitely be home alone working on your laptop. Apart from when you go for interviews to pitch your services or to meet partners, you could go an entire day without using your voice! Before long the isolation will start to affect your mood and work.
If you’re used to having people around while working, consider sharing an office with someone or go rent a desk or cubicle and embrace the coworking phenomenon.
2. You hold yourself accountable
Freelancing full time means you’re responsible for yourself and your work more than ever. There’s no one around to monitor how much work you’re getting done or whether you’re meeting your targets.
For you to be successful as a freelancer, you need to be accountable for yourself. Otherwise, you might end up spending half the day tweeting and going through your RSS reader.
Your work will suffer and your clients will see the effect in the work you turn in. There are plenty of tools, apps and methods to help you stay focused at work but at the end of the day it boils down to having the self-discipine to run yourself and your work.
3. You’ll need self-discipline
When you first start freelancing full time, it’s so tempting to give it your all and work late nights. But what those late nights really do is make you so tired that getting up in the morning is difficult.
Then you think, since you’re working for yourself, you can set your own hours making it okay to sleep in. And that’s where you’re wrong.
If you sleep and wake up late, your entire day gets realigned. Instead of working through the morning, you’re working through the night. Not only is that unhealthy, but it also turns all your waking hours into working ones.
Stick to your office-going work hours and your freelancing business has a good chance of making it. After all, clients don’t burn the midnight oil – they keep to office hours and that’s also when they are most likely to contact you with the latest updates. Keep yourself available.
4. You must learn to negotiate
In a full-time job you’re paid a fixed salary each month with a raise every year, medical insurance, paid leave, and other perks. In freelancing your earnings are directly dependant on your rates and there are no perks in freelancing.
In order to succeed, you need to be able to negotiate reasonable freelancing rates for yourself. There’s nothing wrong with starting out with low rates – as long as you steadily raise them as you gain a reputation for yourself and are always improving your skillset to deserve higher pay.
Failure to negotiate rates means that you’ll be stuck with low rates – and nobody else is going to help you raise your rates.
Here’s a quick tip for raising rates: always quote a rate that is higher for your new clients compared to your present clients and work your way up as you get more projects.
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5. You have to deal with clients!
Unless you’ve directly dealt with your company’s customers and clients during your office years, your very first roadblock is going to be dealing with clients.
When interacting with clients you need to be courteous, direct, and helpful in your communications with them. There’s no room for exasperation or sarcasm – even when they are horrid to work with. Think of it this way: your client is now your boss and you have to treat them like one.
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6. You mustn’t let emotions take over
Freelancing doesn’t give you a buffer against irate clients, unreasonable demands, and rejections. Instead of hearing the news from your boss or a colleague, you’ll be hearing it directly from the client.
Whether it’s a rejection (they’re the hardest to take), an unreasonable demand, or just a disgruntled client, you’ll need to handle the situation with tact.
Keep your emotions in check and instead of going on the offensive, do damage control. Clients are your lifeline; you can’t afford to alienate them.
7. You must know what’s trending
As a freelancer, you’ll need to stay on top of the trends in your industry to stay ahead of the game. It doesn’t mean you waste time trying out everything, but figure out which trends affect you directly and how you can use them to your advantage.
A few years ago, when blogging became the next best thing for business, freelancers who quickly establish their own blogs managed to not only get more clients but also establish themselves as leaders in their niche.
As a full-time freelancer, you need to keep an eye on emerging trends and have the ability to quickly figure out which trends would benefit your freelance business the most.
8. You need your family and friends
Before you make the jump, make sure that your family supports your decision. When you start freelancing, things are pretty stressful. You’re spending a majority of your time finding clients and are constantly worried about making ends meet.
If you don’t have your family’s support (and I’m not talking about just financial support) your stress level is going to spike through the roof.
There are going to be days when you’ll feel like it might not work. That’s when family support matters the most. Just having someone – a partner, spouse, your parents or even one of your big-eyed kids – tell you that it’ll all work out or they believe in you, can go a long way in boosting your confidence.
Friends are also a great source of support during the first few months too. They can help spread the word about your services and refer you to folks in their social and professional circle if they are looking for a freelancer.
9. You must have extra savings
Before you leave your full-time job, start freelancing on the side. It’ll help you gauge your chances of success and when you do switch to freelancing, you’ll have some clients already.
But here’s the catch. After a while, you may feel confident that their payments can keep you afloat, but don’t expect when you do go full-time with freelancing that you’ll have the same clients beating down your door with work.
Think of it as setting up a business from scratch. You’ll eventually need to go out there and find clients – which takes a lot of time and networking, something you will be disadvantaged after removing yourself from the scene by quitting your job.
Until you’re making enough to make ends meet or turn a profit, you’ll need to dip into your savings to get by on a monthly basis. Try to have enough savings to last 6 months before you quit to go full-time freelancing.
The secrets to success
The secret to succeeding as a full-time freelancer is to treat it as a business. You’re the CEO of your freelance company. You’re the one responsible for everything related to it.
Stick to the work ethics you conform to during your office-going days and you’ll be fine. The only difference is that you can take a break when you want to, and work extra hours when needed.
You get to spend more time with your family since you’re spending less time getting stuck on the way and back from work and not to mention those epic-length meetings.
Set your own hours: if you can get your work done in 4 hours instead of 8, no one’s forcing you to stay in the office. How cool is that?
What was the biggest adjustment you made when you started freelancing full time?