You’re longing to make a change. Your career just doesn’t play nice with the rest of your life. As you evaluate your options, you wonder: Should I go freelance?
Well, my friend, that depends. Unfortunately, it’s not a clear-cut decision.
As much as I personally love freelancing, I know that it’s not right for everyone.
So how do you determine if freelancing is right for you?
Here are 6 key things you should have in place before making the leap:
- The right motivation
- Marketable skills
- Financial stability
- The right mindset
- The ability to sell yourself
- Long-term vision
Let’s take a look at each in turn.
The Right Motivation
There are plenty of good reasons to go freelance (freedom, flexibility, autonomy, just to name a few). But, there are some bad reasons, too. The bad reasons usually involve running away from something (think controlling boss, toxic work environment, or hellacious commute).
Escaping from a horrible situation isn’t necessarily going to put you into an ideal one. You need to be crystal clear on why you want to go freelance before you actually do it. That way, you’ll be running towards your desired lifestyle, and intentionally creating a future that you’ll love.
As a freelancer, you have full control over what service(s) you offer. While this decision-making authority is great, you have to be sure that there’s a market for what you’re selling. To be successful, you need a steady stream of folks who’ll be glad to fork over their money for your service. You need highly-marketable, in-demand skills.
So, how do you know if you’ve got some? You take inventory of your skills and you do a little market research.
Taking inventory of your skills doesn’t have to be a big project. Just think about all of the different things you’ve done on the job. What are you especially good at? What have you gotten praised for? What do you actually enjoy doing? Write those down. Don’t forget to include soft skills like being a good listener or being organized.
Now, on to the market research. Again, this isn’t a massive undertaking. Simply search for one of your skills (like writing, graphic design, web development, etc.) online and see what comes up. Use search engines and social media platforms to get a full picture.
Are there lots of results? Are other people offering freelance services using that skill? If so, you likely have a highly-marketable, in-demand skill on your hands! And, I’m willing to bet that you have more than one!
You don’t have to be debt-free or have $100,000 in the bank to go freelance. (Lord knows, I didn’t!) But, you can’t be living paycheck to paycheck, either. As a freelancer, your income will fluctuate. So, one bad month could put you in the poorhouse if you’re right on the financial edge.
At a minimum, you should have a few month’s worth of expenses saved up before going freelance. Ideally, you’ll have closer to a year’s worth (or more) squirreled away (especially if you have dependents). You’ll also need to factor in losing your health insurance and other benefits you’ve enjoyed as an employee.
The Right Mindset
Being an employee and being a freelancer are two totally different animals, requiring two totally different mindsets. Your brain will have to adapt quickly in order to be successful. The two biggest shifts you’ll need to make? Expecting work to be handed to you and thinking your new role fits into a tidy, well-defined job description.
As an employee, your assignments get funneled to you, automatically. You show up at the office, and your daily tasks already await you. You’ll get paid whether you complete them or not.
Further, your assigned tasks will almost always be related to your one, specific role with the company. As an accountant, you wouldn’t dream of fielding a customer inquiry. And as a marketing specialist, you’d never have to prepare financial documents.
But, as a freelancer, you need to actively seek work. You have to advertise your services, connect with prospective clients, and ask existing clients for assignments. And, guess what happens if you don’t finish the work? You don’t get paid!
And, when you’re a freelancer, you’re a small business owner. That means, you have to wear ALL of the hats! You can’t get away with saying “not my job” anymore. You’re now in charge of marketing, sales, customer service, accounting, etc. — on top of providing your actual service. It’s a lot — can you handle it?
The Ability to Sell Yourself
When you want to change jobs, you have to do a bit of self-promotion. You network, fill out applications, go on interviews, and (hopefully) negotiate your new salary. You go through this process once every few years or so.
But, when you freelance, you have to do these types of activities almost every dang day! That means you need to be comfy with putting yourself out there and talking money. Your success as a freelancer depends on it!
So what if getting a root canal sounds like more fun than marketing yourself? Take heart — with a little courage and some practice, you can get better at self-promotion. As someone who can be introverted, I had to and I did!
Bonus: Want to learn how to land clients without cold pitching? Check out this free guide!
I’m as impatient as they come — so this one was (and is) a toughie for me. But, building a freelance business is a process. You need to be committed for the long haul.
You won’t go from a virtual unknown to the go-to freelancer in your niche overnight. (And, honestly, it’s better to grow at a metered pace so you have the time to evaluate and adapt what you’re doing.) As much as humans naturally seek instant gratification, you need to be good with, and ideally enjoy, the journey to success.
If you’ve got these 6 things going for you, you can probably be a successful freelancer. That’s great!
But the critical question is: do you really want to go freelance? Your deep desire to make the transition is the single most important factor in your decision-making process.
You can learn new skills, prepare your finances, embrace a different mindset, promote the heck out of yourself, or have all the patience in the world. But, if your motivation is lacking, none of those things matter.
You need to make choices that get you closer to your ideal lifestyle.
So, whether you go freelance or not, I’m rooting for you!
And, if you need help making your freelance dreams a reality, I’m here for you.
Fun quiz: Think you know a lot about freelancing? Put your freelance IQ to the test!