So You Want to Go Freelance…

“I want to be my own boss.” How many times have I heard that? So many people fantasize about saying, “Take this job and shove it,” to their employers. They envision freedom through owning their business. But what’s the reality of going freelance? Being a freelancer means you’re not just doing what you love � in addition to graphic design, you must wear all the hats of a business owner


Freelancing Roles

Here are just some of the hats you will wear as a freelancer:

  1. You’re the office manager. If you have a favorite pen, you can order all you want and not worry about co-workers stealing them. But if the printer runs out of toner on deadline, it’s no one’s fault but your own. As a business owner, you’re responsible for all the behind-the-scenes work to keep it going.
  2. You’re the rainmaker. Just because you hung up your “open for business” sign doesn’t mean the clients are going to beat down your door–you need to find ways to bring them in yourself. Marketing is often cited as the least-enjoyable part of freelancing, because you want to huddle down with creative work, but instead you have to sell yourself. Not only that, but you have find the actual time to promote your work.
  3. You’re the taxman. Every year in January, companies issue W-2 forms to employees, who often do their own taxes based on that one form. But freelancers get more than a W-2. Not only must you keep track of all your payments from each client but you also need to retain receipts in relation to your business since they are potential deductions. Get more tax information for freelancers here.
  4. You’re the IT person. Just because you know the Adobe Creative Suite inside and out doesn’t mean you know how to install memory into your computer or troubleshoot VoIP when it goes down. I love working independently––setting my own deadlines and surging through projects without interruptions from people. But the second my Internet turns sluggish or I get locked out of my computer, I am at IT’s door whining like a two-year-old for help. When I work from home and my computer acts up, I can only follow the advice of “The IT Crowd” and try turning it off and on again.

I’m not trying to scare anyone off–rather, people should realize what they’re getting into before swiping all the paperwork off their boss’ desk as they stomp out the door.

The Positives of Being a Freelancer

And there are positives to have all the different responsibilities, too:

  1. Nondesign tasks break up your day. Sometimes you’ll hit a creative block, and rather than waste time forcing ideas, take a break and tend to administrative tasks. A school of thought is that working in chunks of time is a good way to stay on task and not burn out. It’s like having multiple deadlines throughout the day, which is how many people thrive.
  2. You’ll be more marketable if you re-enter in-house life. I once blew a job interview because I failed the Excel test. It didn’t matter that I write, edit and design–nope, this was a job at a small nonprofit that needed everyone to pitch in and perform admin duty. Having skills beyond design prepares you for the real world, and depending on how long the economy takes to recover, you might find yourself counting on those extra skills to earn you a paycheck.
  3. You have more opportunities for networking. Whether you’re shopping for office supplies, visiting your tax preparer or working in a cafe, you never know when you’ll bump into your next client. Being out and about allows you to meet all sorts of different people, and the more you chat them up, the more opportunity you have to pass on your business card.
  4. You can do what you want. A company whose politics you disagree with approached you for a job? You can turn it down. A struggling business wants to hire you, but can’t afford your rate? You can halve it––just for them. If you’re a night owl, you can work into the wee hours and sleep all morning. As long as you make your deadlines and return phone calls and e-mails, clients shouldn’t care––or notice––the odd hours you keep. You don’t have to shower or wear a tie. Heck, you don’t have to wear pants.

Your Turn

What do you like most about being a freelancer? What do you like the least?

Share your answers in the comments.

Image by notsogoodphotography

Comments

  1. says

    I like that if somebody wants to meet for lunch, I can meet them. Or if there’s an errand I need to run, I can do it (and not fight crowds, since I can zip out while everybody else is at work). Since I started freelancing, my wife and I go to the gym in the afternoon when nobody’s there, and all I have to do is come home and make up the time, which isn’t a bad thing since I’m no longer commuting over two hours a day.

    I also like that if an idea for something of my own hits, I can run with it and just make the time up when I’m done. At a typical job, I couldn’t just stop working for an hour to work on something of my own that came to mind.

    I like that I can reply to blog entries like this and network online; I couldn’t do that at my last job.

    As far as what I like the least: I’ve just started freelancing, so I worry about what happens when the current gig ends. I don’t worry because I’m afraid of not having work–I worry because I enjoy freelancing and hope that it’s something I can sustain. But with the time I have since I’m not commuting and being distracted all day by managers asking me to do busy work instead of work for clients, I have time to network and work at things that will [hopefully] ensure that I can continue freelancing.

    I look forward to everybody’s answers.

  2. says

    I love the flexibility. I’m able to work around my family’s schedule. This has been an important aspect for all of us. The flexibility also allows me to concentrate on inspiration. For example, I had an idea for a site this week and was able to devote a day right away to it.

    My biggest challenge is pricing. I’m still working on the best way to assign value to what I do and communicating that to clients.

  3. says

    I really enjoy being able to pick my own projects and knowing that I made a difference. it might sound a little cheesy, but working for clients with businesses/organizations that I like it really cool. I know that I’m helping them meet their goals and follow their mission. It’s very rewarding.

  4. says

    The freedom is absolutely what I love the most. And I agree with Jennifer…saying so long to sorry bosses was a definite plus!

    The variability of work and consistent income is what I like least. I am also with you Christopher. I am 7 months into full-time freelancing and I truly hope this is something I can sustain. So far, so good, but this is definitely a path I hope I can keep going down for a long, long time.

  5. says

    I like being able to pick and choose my clients also. Once you get a new client you are in a relationship with them, if they are giving you signs that it’s going to be a bad relationship, don’t even take them. One bad client will suck out all of your energy that you could be spending with your good clients. Flexibility is also a huge plus, I can start work, end, and take breaks when I want to or when I need to. It is good to have some sort of structure, if you get to lackadaisical, you won’t get any work done.

    In response to the freelance roles, this is all very true. People that could be good designers, writers, programmers, etc may not be the best business people, and that is OK. My recommendation is to find some people that can help with these tasks.

    1. Purchase Quickbooks (or other accounting software) and find an accountant. Manage the software throughout the year and have the accountant there for taxes and any possible questions you have throughout the year. This will save you lots of money in the long run.

    2. Make sure you schedule time for business activities like advertising, marketing and networking. It’s one thing to be working on 5 projects right now, but what happens when you are done? You should always be prospecting and trying to find new business, no matter how busy you are.

    3. Always signup for business class services. For example: your internet. A) Most companies have much better internet/email/phone support for business when they need it. So if something goes wrong, they handle the businesses first. B) You can easily write this off as a business expense, especially if you signup with your business name/address. Be sure to check with your accountant first though (See #1)

    -Chris

  6. says

    I love that I can stay home with my kids and be there for them when they need me. I can work all night once they are in bed and for a night owl like me it’s perfect. I love that I can choose my clients and work to help other small businesses.
    The only thing I don’t like is not having a regular income!

  7. says

    The #1 thing I like is the flexibility, although even after all of these years I struggle to shed the 9-5 mentality. I am naturally a very early riser, and I like that I can work at 4am for several hours when it is quiet everywhere; my husband the night owl doesn’t get up until 8am. It is especially helpful because my clientele is global. Also because just about everything in my business is online and I have just about every gadget available, I can work any time from anywhere.
    I am working very hard to not feel guilty if I’m not at my desk from 9 to 5. Why should I be? It’s just hubby and me and our two dogs. I’m working on it–as long as my client deadlines are met, I can work when I want to!

  8. says

    Freelancing is a risky move, but if you do have some business skills and are good at what you do then the lifestyle is phenomenal.

    I love the fact that all the work I do is my work I chose to do. I was not forced to do it. I can work with non-profits, help friends, and make a difference. This is huge for me. The great part too is that I can feel the reward of every new lead and client.

    The downers are when you are in a period of freelancing famine. They can be really rough on you and your family. So I’ve learned to just keep marketing.

  9. says

    The good thing about freelancing which I like is the flexibility. Even though I still work longer hours than my previous 9-5 job but I enjoy what I do because of the freedom. The only drawback I find while freelancing is when you run out of gigs but I constantly market myself which keep me steady flow of work.

  10. says

    I love, love, love being able to select the projects I want to work on. I am constantly learning and creating every day–something I just couldn’t seem to get out of my typical day jobs. I’m never bored and always challenged.

    What I like the least about freelancing is that I am constantly applying for jobs to replace the short-term projects I pick up.

  11. says

    I love that I can work with one of my puppies sleeping in my lap, and decorate my office how I want.

    I miss running out to dentist/doctor appointments, and taking long lunches on company time, lol

    *I also have a great tip for everyone, nomatter how busy I am, I always devote the last half hour of every day to invoicing or updating the portfolio, blog or facebook fan page. If I have a slow day I’ll do those anyways, but if you don’t make time for them and have a busy week or two, you can easily let them slip.

  12. says

    I love that I can go out any time I want, to have some snacks or visit my buddy’s house.

    One thing I keep in mind to respond to clients very quickly.
    I am constantly building my marketing skills.
    Love love freelancing , now late sittings are fun as I can have chat with my family members while working at night, instead of sitting alone in the office just to make my boss’ friend happy.

    regards,
    Rameez Usmani

Trackbacks

  1. [...] So You Want To Go Freelance Freelance Folder October 22, 2010 By Jennifer Moline “I want to be my own boss.” How many times have I heard that? So many people fantasize about saying, “Take this job and shove it,” to their employers. They envision freedom through owning their business. But what’s the reality of going freelance? Being a freelancer means you’re not just doing what you love — in addition to graphic design, you must wear all the hats of a business owner [...]

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