Two questions that I’m often asked (and quite frankly, dread) are:
- “Do you think that I could succeed as a freelancer?”
- “Should I become a freelancer?”
I dread answering these particular questions because most people don’t realize that moving to freelancing generally involves a major lifestyle change. It’s nearly impossible to give a correct answer to the questions, and it’s certainly not possible to give a single answer that fits every individual and every circumstance.
It is possible, however, to provide some guidelines to those who are considering freelancing as a career option – so that’s what I’ll do in this post. I’ll provide the guidelines in the form of questions that you should ask yourself. (The information that I’m going to offer here should not be construed as specific advice for any one individual.)
Here are some questions to ask yourself before you decide to become a freelancer:
Do You Have A Marketable Skill?
The programmer for XYZ Company likely has highly marketable skills. On the other hand, the mailroom clerk for the same company may not have marketable skills.
Some tips on taking a skill inventory:
- Examine your responsibilities and not your job title
- Look at skills that you may have developed outside of your employment (hobbies, volunteer positions, and so on)
- If you do not have a skill, or cannot provide a service that others need, then you can’t freelance until you have something to offer, something people would actually pay for.
Are You Able to Communicate Your Skill and Abilities to Others?
Many sources say that public speaking is the number one fear for most people. From what I’ve heard people say about speaking in public, I believe it.
Making a sales call is probably the number two fear.
Yet, as a freelancer you will need both of these “frightening” skills:
- You must be able to explain what you offer in a clear and concise fashion (sometimes this explanation is in written form, but it may also be in person or on the phone).
- You must also “sell” potential clients on your ability to get the work done.
How Flexible Can You Be?
The freelancing lifestyle is known for its flexibility – but that flexibility is a two-way street.
Unlike a business environment where you are allowed to clock out at a particular time, in freelancing your working hours are determined by your workload and project deadlines. There’s no one there to pick up the slack if you fall behind or get sick.
As an example, I typically don’t schedule myself to work weekends – but after missing a day last week for a trip to the dentist I worked through the weekend in order to meet a deadline.
If you absolutely have to have certain times off, then freelancing might not be your best alternative.
Do You Have Self-Discipline?
While a few clients may nag you about getting their project done, most clients will simply give you an assignment and expect you to complete it on time.
As a freelancer, you must have the self-discipline to make sure that the project gets done.
You will need to schedule your time (making allowances for unexpected setbacks) and work without prompting from others or reminders. Not everybody can work without supervision. Can you?
What Are Your Financial Obligations?
This is a difficult question, but for anyone considering freelancing a full-time career it is a vital one. It is possible to make a good living as a freelancer, but any seasoned freelancer will tell you that there are also dry spells when you must go without work.
Here are some red flags to think about carefully before starting a full-time freelancing career:
- Lots of people (children, spouse, parents, and so on) depend upon your income
- You have a huge mortgage (car, boat, etc.) payment
- You are behind on your bills
- You are the only one earning an income in your family
- You have no savings
The presence of one, or more, red flags doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t freelance. However, it is certainly an indication that you should be cautious.
How Will You Provide For You Non-Cash Needs?
Typically, a traditional job comes with perks and benefits that most workers rarely think about. Some of the more common perks include:
- Health insurance
- Paid sick days
- Paid vacation time
- Office space
- Work equipment
As a freelancer, you will be responsible for providing these all of these benefits for yourself and your family. How will you do it?
This list of guidelines is by no means exhaustive, but by going through it carefully and thoughtfully you should begin to get some idea of whether or not freelancing is for you.
So, what do you think? :)
About the author: Laura Spencer is a freelance writer from North Central Texas with over 18 years of professional business writing experience. If you liked this post, then you may also enjoy Laura’s blog about her freelance writing experiences, WritingThoughts.
image in this post: oberazzi (Tim O’Brien)