Are You Ready to Freelance? 5 Things You Need Know

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Would you like to work for yourself? Instead of going into the office everyday, why not work from home? It can be a great way to make a living and there is a growing demand for freelance graphic designers, programmers and more. In fact, many tech companies have begun offering telecommuting options as well. For a growing number of people, freelancing is a way to have more control over the work they do, and often they are able to make more money as well.
More and more people have used the tight job market as a springboard toward starting their own businesses. In fact, the sudden increase in gig-type freelance work is being lauded as the industrial revolution of our time.
Working from home or working for yourself can be very rewarding, fun, and exciting. However, it can also be really scary. In the past two years or so that I have been freelancing, I have learned more about business, taxes and how to keep myself motivated than I had ever learned in the years I spent working for others. Freelancing isn't for everyone, but if you're creative and willing to learn as you go, it can be a excellent way to change your career and change your life. Even if you decide somewhere down the road to return to corporate America, your freelance experience will show that you are someone who makes their own breaks, rather than waiting for someone to give it to them.
On the other hand, leaving the corporate world is scary. Out there on your own, you won't have the support of a boss who is monitoring your performance and co-workers who can help you meet a deadline. Instead, you're the boss - which means everything that needs to be done, needs to be done by you. Suddenly being able to work when and where you want can almost be too much freedom, and you'll have to work at staying motivated and planning your time effectively.
It's a lot of work, but how do you know you're ready to freelance? Here are 5 things you need know before you venture out on your own:
Have some savings. Before you leave your job, you'll need to build up a nest-egg. When I began freelancing, I didn't do this step because I was already out of work and struggling to find a job. I didn't have much to lose and freelancing, for me at least, began as a way to earn money while I continued my job search. For savings, the old rule of thumb was to have at least three months worth of living expenses in the bank, but with the tight job market, you might want to bump that up to six or seven months. However, that doesn't mean that you have to put your dream on hold while you save. You can always freelance on the side, saving the money you earn until you have enough to quit your day job.
Know how much you're worth. You don't want to charge too little for your product or services, but at the same time, you don't want to lose customers by charging too much. It's hard to know how much you're worth, but there are websites, like FreelanceSwitch, that can help. The rate you charge should be a mix of what the current going rate is, taking into consideration how much money you need to earn and how much the service is worth to your client. Setting a good price in the beginning is crucial because once you begin charging a certain price or hourly rate, you may be stuck with it for the term of the client's contract. So, do your research upfront and save yourself hassles later.
Nurture yourself. Remember those staff meetings, office parties and other times when you were sort of allowed to goof off for part or all of the day? Those office picnics and training seminars? Yeah, they were sometimes lame, but they served an important purpose. They gave you a chance to take a break, learn something new, fight burnout and even kept your skills sharp. When you work for yourself, those breaks don't happen. Instead, you'll have to plan time to do relax, look for new training courses and keep feeding your career. It isn't enough just to find clients and produce great work. You will still need to invest time and energy into learning new skills and building your career.
Schedule enough time to complete your work. Without an established work schedule, it's tempting to procrastinate, and finding time to get all of your work done can be tough. Don't forget that working from home is still work and you'll need set office hours. Otherwise, you'll find yourself overwhelmed and struggling to keep your business on track. If you have small children who will be at home or other obligations, make sure that you have everyone's support before leaving the corporate world.
Have a backup plan. What are you going to do if your freelance business goes bust one day? You need some sort of backup plan before you get started. I know it sounds a little negative, but planning for failure doesn't increase the odds of failing. It just means that you're considering all of the angles before you get started. If your business slows down, will you look for a new job or will you struggle through, living on your savings to try to make a comeback? Knowing your plan up front will prevent you from throwing in the towel at the first sign of trouble.
Making the decision to freelance isn't always an easy one. However, with good planning, it can be the answer you were looking for.
Have you ever thought about working freelance? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
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  • Melissa Kennedy
    Melissa Kennedy
    Thanks for the comments. Freelancing isn't for everyone and there are times when it simply isn't a good choice. However, there are plenty of people who enjoy freelancing and find it more rewarding than working for someone else. The nice thing is that it doesn't have to be a forever decision. Some people freelance while they are looking for a full-time job and others freelance for a few years and then decide that working for someone else makes more sense. The most important thing is to have a plan.
  • Eileen D
    Eileen D
    Good sound advice all the way through.
  • Robert M
    Robert M
    I quit a job back in 2001 after 12 years with them.  I wasn't satisfied with the pay considering all my accomplishments and decided to go out and get what I was worth.  I got the pay I was after, but I lost the health insurance I needed for my wife.  I've been playing contractor since then except for one nice position that even had covered parking, but they shut down their operations because our customer was breaking our back.  Just somrthing to add to the conversation.  A great raise doesn't guarantee a long term position and the benefits of a steady job amount to more than you initially think about.
  • Cecilia R
    Cecilia R
    I think it is a wonderful way to make money.  The hours are yours to keep as long as you get the job done.
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