Sometimes people ask me how they can get into freelancing, or better yet, how they can turn their existing freelancing efforts into a success. There’s not one easy answer that I can give. And it’s really not about how good your designs are. What it comes down to is who you are as a person and what your financial needs are.
Below, I’ve listed the five biggest things to consider when deciding whether or not freelancing is right for you:
1. Entrepreneurial spirit
I’m hoping that, at this stage in your life, you know yourself pretty well. From what you know of yourself, would you call yourself a goal setter? Do you have a thirst for knowledge? During your first few years as a freelancer, there’s a lot to learn. Are you the type of person who wants to learn those things?
This goes hand-in-hand with having an entrepreneurial spirit. Are you willing to go it alone? If you’ve ever had an office job, consider what you do when no one is watching. When the boss is out of the office, do you buckle down and get your work done, or do you goof off in the break room? In order to succeed as a freelancer, you’ve got to be self-motivated. You’ve got to work with no supervision. Some people thrive in that environment. Others do not.
Consider how motivated you are, all on your own. Are you the type of person who will stay up late nights to get jobs done?
3. Business savvy
As a freelancer, you’ve got to have a handle on your own finances, and you’ve got to be able to negotiate on your own behalf. There is no buffer between you and your client. At some point, you may want to expand your team, but at least initially, you are on the front lines, and you’re also doing all of the background work.
Are you comfortable with figuring out how much to charge a client? If a client is not forthcoming with payment or is asking for more than what you’ve agreed to, do you think you can be your own enforcer? Or would you rather work in an office setting where someone else takes care of these details for you, allowing you to focus primarily on actual design tasks.
4. Time and dedication
How much time will you be able to put into freelancing? If you’re just doing it casually, your client base is not going to grow. Remember that, as a freelancer, you are a one man show. You’ve got to market yourself through social media. You’ve got to drive traffic to your website through SEO marketing. You’ve got to take care of your own invoicing and client communications. This, of course, is in addition to completing design work.
If you’re thinking of doing freelancing as a side gig while maintaining another full time job, you will probably never get your freelancing business on its feet. If you’re wanting freelance to be your full time job, you’re going to have to commit some serious time to it. Are you willing and able to do that?
5. Your immediate and long-term needs
When I decided to strike out on my own as a freelancer, I was single and childless, and I made sure I had saved up enough money to pay my bills for 12 months. I didn’t want to have to depend on my freelance jobs for income because I wasn’t sure how quickly I’d be making decent money as a freelancer. Until I started bringing in a livable wage, I ate frozen burritos every night for dinner. I was determined to cut out extraneous spending until I was sure that I actually could afford it.
It takes a while to build up a client base. If you’re not financially stable and/or prepared to live on ramen noodles for a while, freelancing may not be for you.
There you have it: the reasons why you should (or shouldn’t) give freelancing a try. Personally, I have no regrets. I love my life as a freelancer. I work hard, but I also get to work wherever I want, whenever I want. It’s called freelancing for a reason.