So, you want to be a freelancer?
I get plenty of messages and ‘virtual coffee’ requests from people who are considering freelancing. About 10 a week.
I’ve personally inspired eight people to tell their boss to shove their job up their arse and run away to join my freelance clan. However, another six calls with similar individuals have ended with them realising actually they like the idea of freelancing way more than the practicality and had no clue that it wasn’t just sitting in hipster coffee shops posting on social media.
Every conversation goes the exact same way and I ask the same questions and they each come to their own realisations whether it’s for them or not.
Here are the questions you need to ask yourself if you’re considering freelancing:
What do you want from your career?
To work from home full time? Travel whilst working? More time with the kids? More money? Can’t bare to ever wear a suit again? Recognition? To work to your passions in an industry you give a crap about? Autonomy? OR are you: just escaping your old boss, a toxic work culture, wanting a career change or more flexibility?
Most of these things you can get from employment, you just need a new job or to speak with your manager. Is there absolutely no way you’d be able to get any of those things in your current role or by looking for a new one?
If you like being part of a team, having holiday pay, set tasks, a regular payday, guaranteed and stable income then it’s not going to be the right option for you. If, however, you find your entrepreneurial spirit and thirst for growth, learning, ownership, control and refusal to stay in your box renders you pretty much a terrible employee – get on the freelance wagon and strap up for a bumpy ride.
Could you run a business?
You’re no longer an employee, you have many more responsibilities. Could you price your services effectively? Create and manage a brand? Manage your business costs, outsourcing and overheads?
You need to consider:
- Brand: logo, business name, fonts, colours.
- Online presence: managing your personal brand, social channels, website build.
- Finance: will you hire an accountant to do your tax returns or do this yourself if you’re well versed in pensions and NI or via a software? Will you be manually or auto-invoicing?
- Business Development: where will your clients come from? Do you have a network to leverage or BD plan?
- Services and pricing: do you know what you’ll be providing and for how much? Can you cost up bespoke packages easily?
- Legal: You’ll need to be set up as a sole trader and get business insurance as well as have an airtight set of contracts and also Non-Disclosure-Agreements.
- Tech: do you have all the right equipment from laptop and phone to software businesses usually pay for i.e. Photoshop, Later, Bonsai/Quickbooks, Shopify etc?
You can outsource a lot of the above if it looks overwhelming, I figured out most of it by literally Googling ‘how to run a business’ then learning when I screwed it up. Having a family of accountants and directors helps.
Could you cope if all your clients bailed on you tomorrow?
It happens. It happened to me in the pandemic. Fortunately my boyfriend could support us if it came to it and I had savings to keep me going and a continually full pipeline of potential clients to pick back up in a few weeks. If all my clients ran away tomorrow, I’ve got another 7 on the waitlist and 5 warm leads.
Are you comfortable with shameless self-promotion?
If you’re not up for putting yourself out there and showing up both online and at networking events then you need to either factor in paying someone to do your lead generation or stick with a job that has a business development team to bring the work in for you.
The biggest reason freelancers fail is their failure to market themselves. The feast-famine cycle that traditionally plagues freelancers is down to a lack of continued business development efforts ensuring you have a consistent pipeline of work coming through.
What do you need to take the next step?
Do you need to gather some savings? Clients? Resources i.e. templates? Write that sh*t down. If you had 7 days off the clock before you started your freelance career what would you need to do? Who would you need to hire or speak to? What processes need setting up? Do you need a second screen and a desk or a co-working space membership? A better camera?
Prioritise and execute.
Don’t spend hours at the drawing board. It’s better to launch a crap site now and update it later, it doesn’t need to be perfect it just needs to function.
What’s holding you back?
If you had all the resources and time in the world, what would be your hurdle?
If you’ve got a mental block and would feel like you’d be free-falling or drowning without the safety net of a secure role or lack in confidence to put yourself out there, consider speaking to a business consultant. They can help you clarify and overcome these limiting beliefs, plus, it’s way cheaper than telling your manager to do one then running a failing business three weeks later, after investing hundreds or even thousands in your shiny new brand, site, email footer and software packages.
What’s the long-term goal here?
Where do you see yourself in five years? Are you saving up for something, wanting to build an agency or empire? Wanting to see the world?
If you’re right at the start of your career, time in industry is invaluable. Going freelance straight from uni without the corporate experience and case studies or network already is going to be like running through mud. I highly recommend real-world agency experience so you can learn to use software, industry best practices, templates and have some results and testimonials to use when pitching to clients to show what you can do.
If freelancing aligns with where you want to be in a few years’ time, sod it, set a date with destiny and start booking clients in and press the big old send on that resignation.
I’d love to hear your thought processes on this one and what conclusion you came to! Spurred on to quit the rat race or feeling pretty comfortable in your current role?
If you’re thinking of taking that leap, you can read about the pros and cons of freelancing here.