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