Can You Handle a Full-time Freelance Career?
According to the 2012 Freelance Industry Report by Ed Gandia, 65.5% of freelancing professionals work full-time as freelancers. Their career is freelancing. They don’t freelance “on the side,” and they don’t have other part-time jobs to subsidize their income.
Given that Freelancers Union estimates “Nearly one in three working Americans is an independent worker,” that’s a lot of people making a living by freelancing.
Freelancing provides home/work life flexibility, the satisfaction of doing what you love, and the opportunity to develop your skills and knowledge on your own terms.
Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s easy! Personally, I’ve found I’ve worked harder as a freelancer writer than when I worked for a corporation. Don’t misunderstand; I wasn’t by any stretch a slacker for my employer. But starting and running my own business has demanded a whole new level of commitment in time, attention, and emotional investment.
Are you up for the challenge of freelancing?
If you haven’t started yet or are new to freelancing, here’s a list of some things you’ll need to consider as an independent contractor.
Setting up a website
Along with that goes: finding a web developer/designer, web hosting, domain name registration, content (both text and visual), ongoing content updates, etc.
When self-employed, you’re responsible for submitting your tax payments to the appropriate agencies, because taxes aren’t taken out of your paycheck from an employer.
Income tax (federal, state, local), Social Security, Medicare. And depending on the nature of what you provide to your customers, maybe even state sales tax. Before you get rolling with your freelance business, talk with a tax professional to find out exactly what tax obligations you’ll have and when they’re due. A tax pro can also help you estimate how much you’ll owe so you can plan ahead.
No Guaranteed Income
Clients can come and go. Projects come and go. Even when you have several clients who give you regularly recurring weekly or monthly assignments, they may not last forever. Unlike having a steady paycheck from an employer, your income might wax and wane. I’ll bet you’ve heard about the “feast or famine” cycle before. You will probably experience it as a freelancer, especially when you’re starting out.
If you’re thinking just being present will draw prospects to you, think again. You need to put yourself out there and build awareness of your services. Expect to spend A LOT of time marketing yourself, especially when your business is new. Social media and blogging have been immensely effective tools for me. Be warned, however, they require attention every day and will demand hours of your time each and every week. To keep the momentum going and nurture online business relationship, you can’t ignore your social media or blog even when you’re super busy.
Paid Time Off
As a freelancer, there is no such thing.
Again, no such thing.
Arguably, this could be lumped under marketing, but I believe it’s important enough for its own mention.
As convenient and effective as online networking is, the in-person variety can boost your capacity to build trust. When you meet someone face-to-face, they get a better sense of your personality and likeability. By attending networking events, you can get your foot in the door and close deals more quickly. And you can easily build upon those new relationships by following up via connecting with contacts on LinkedIn and other social media channels.
Be aware, however, that it takes time and consistency, just like online networking does. Don’t expect to go to a single event and walk out with a new customer in the bag.
Also important to know: networking events typically require a registration fee or membership to an organization (like chambers of commerce or professional networking groups).
I’m extremely fortunate in that I have medical, dental, and vision insurance through my husband’s policy at work, but not all freelancers are as lucky. If you’re not married or your spouse’s plan won’t cover you, you’ll need to look into getting your own policy. It’s an expense you’ll need to factor into your pricing.
Time to Do the Work. Time to Run the Business.
Expect that you won’t be spending 40 hours a week on billable work for clients. Having a freelancing business demands time for taking care of administrative tasks, marketing, prospecting, and other responsibilities. That’s another thing to factor into your pricing. Your billable time will need to compensate for the time you spend on non-billable tasks.
Dealing with Numbers
Running your own business requires some degree of competency in managing your financials. Even if you outsource elements of your bookkeeping, you need to have a basic understanding of tracking and reporting the money coming into and going out of your business.
Only the Self-Motivated and Organized Need Apply.
If you have trouble motivating yourself to start projects and see them through to the end, freelancing might not be the best career choice for you. Likewise, if you fail at prioritizing and let tasks and projects slide until they’re past due, think twice before diving into freelancing full time.
I could go on and on, but I think that should give you a good taste of what you can expect from a career in freelancing. You’re the boss and there are many rewards, but you’ll need to work for them.
That said, don’t let your lack of experience or knowledge about business lead you to think you can’t do it. With so many online resources and entrepreneur-focused organizations (like SBA and SCORE, for example), you can access information and gain insight easily. I also recommend talking to other freelancers who will share about their own experiences.
Do your homework; then decide if a freelance career is right for you.
By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post