I think that most of us – at some point in our lives – have thought about quitting our day jobs to try and start our own business, or to become a freelancer. But as I embark on month four of fulltime freelancing, I have to say, it’s a lot harder than I thought it would be. And even though I feel grateful that I’ve had success so far, there’s nothing wrong with staying in a corporate job, and I’m beginning to realize that for a lot of people (maybe myself included), freelancing will never be the right career move.
If you’re thinking of making the move to freelancing, here are a few things you should think over:
You need experience
If you’ve just recently graduated from school, chances are you won’t have the experience, the portfolio, or the network you need to become a successful freelancer. Sure, some people can make it happen immediately, but it’s extremely difficult to prove your value and show clients that you’re capable of taking on their projects if you have nothing to show them but the work that you’ve done in school.
I would suggest starting a freelancing career in your spare time, and woking a full-time job in order to gain experience. That way, you will start to build a freelance client base, and still keep money flowing in to pay the bills and help fund your business. It might be more difficult this way, but it provides much more security, and you are more likely to succeed at freelancing once you do decide to go for it full-time.
It is not easier than a corporate job
Did you hear me?! :) A lot of people look at freelancing as a way to make more money with less effort. After all, you get to keep all of the money you bring in, and you don’t need to share it with the employer. But becoming a successful freelancer takes time, and it’s not for anyone who is looking to make fast money.
When most freelancers start out, they can’t be picky about the work they receive. So if you think freelancing is a way to get out of the tedious and boring assignments your boss at your day job gives you, think again. You will definitely get your chances to be creative and unique, but ultimately, if your client wants to go in a completely different direction than what you’ve proposed, you have to suck it up and do what they want – even if you don’t like it. Not only that, but all of a sudden, you will have to do everything that comes with running a business. You will speak with the clients, create the marketing campaigns, pay the invoices, and do all of the administration work – including filing, answering phone calls, and replying to an endless sea of e-mails.
Time management skills are essential
This is one of the most important aspects of freelancing, but it’s also the hardest. When you work for yourself, you can forget about working a regular 9-5 schedule at the beginning. You will most likely end up working long hours for the first few years until you get more established. It’s also likely that you will end up wasting a lot of time in the first year, as you set up processes and ways to keep track of everything that works for you.
When I quit my full-time job, I thought I’d open up so much more time to write. But I think I average about 40% of my time on administration duties. It’s insane! But the administrative side of the business is extremely important, and if you don’t keep on top of it all, you will miss out on a lot of opportunities, and probably piss people off in the process. And I realized that a “regular” schedule just isn’t going to work for me – especially being on the other side of the world and fighting the time difference.
The competitive edge
You likely won’t be be the first in your line of work, and you certainly won’t be the last either. So in order to succeed, you will need to market and promote yourself harder than anyone else who is already doing it, and better than those who are coming up behind you. So if competition scares you, then freelancing is not the right career move for you.
Check out your competition and see how you can stand out from everyone else. Think about ways you can show prospective clients why you are the best option, and if you can tap into a niche market, or find some sort of hook, try to see where it will take you.
It can get lonely
Being by myself all day, every day was a really, really hard adjustment for me, and I know a lot of people end up back in the corporate world just because they can’t handle the loneliness and isolation. While social interaction does happen as a freelancer, you probably won’t have co-workers around to joke with, or anyone to bounce ideas off of. Some people just work better and are more creative when they have people around them.
I expect that when I move back to Vancouver, I will have more interaction with people during the day, but the thought of going back to a full-time job has crossed my mind more than once. Because while part of my hesitation with continuing as a freelancer is the lack of interaction with people, it’s also the income (or rather, the savings) that I miss. I consider myself to be one of the lucky bloggers who has been able to make a living from blogging and writing, but the opportunity to work long hours won’t be around forever (children will eventually come, and I won’t have the energy to work 12+ hour days). So if I can stretch myself, work more, and save more towards the future, I should do it while I can. At least, that’s my thought right now. We’ll see what happens in four months when I get back home.