I kind of had an inking that full-time work was becoming too much for me even before losing my corporate job. I’d get to the end of my eight-hour day exhausted, not able to fully invest in spending time with my family in the evenings. It got frustrating, and I wasn’t sure exactly what to do about it until the universe gave me helping hand - I lost my job.
It had been an ideal set-up since I worked full-time from home. I could pick up my kids from school or run out to meet the bus, and I had help a few afternoons a week, so I could work my full days without interruptions. But, when given the choice whether to continue on somewhere else full-time or strike out on my own as a freelancer, the idea of setting my own hours was just too appealing not to risk it.
Having been in the freelance lifestyle for a year and a half now, I realize there are a few key areas you need to examine before you can feel confident that, should the work come in, you’ll be able to succeed as a freelancer. Of course, all the right skills in the world won’t matter if you can’t find and get work, so remember, above all else to network, meet deadlines, and be accommodating to your clients.
The right experience
While this may seem like a no-brainer, it’s important to consider what you’d like to concentrate on within your freelance career, carefully examining how your previous experience relates to that area. For me, wanting to focus on content creation as a freelancer meant I had to modify my resume to focus on my previous experience that highlighted my writing skills. Having a professional background in marketing has been helpful, but not as helpful as my journalism degree, my blogging experience, or my time managing content for a series of online communities. Being a marketer isn’t indicative of having writing skills, so it was important that I could demonstrate my writing background within the scope of the previous positions I’d held in marketing.
Before narrowing down the area you’d like to freelance in, make sure to ask yourself a few key questions:
- How much experience do you have in the area you’re looking to focus on as a freelancer?
- Can you demonstrate that experience through a portfolio or on your resume?
- Do you have any relevant experience that will really make you stand out?
Bringing home the bacon
While not really bringing anything home since in theory you’re there already, as a freelancer you have to evaluate whether it’s possible to earn enough to make it a successful career choice for your budget. There is usually a dip in earnings when shifting to freelance, so you should consider evaluating your budgetary needs before getting started. Figure out what you’d like to earn each month, then make sure you have a buffer in place for at least 3-6 months to start earning that amount of money.
Freelancing connections don’t happen overnight, but if you work hard and prioritize networking, you can build up to an ideal freelance salary (assuming it’s realistic from the start.) The best tip here is to manage expectations. Don’t expect to make your salary from your previous full-time job for at least the first year, even if you’re still working 40-50 hours per week every week. Even, then, it’s better to just be pleasantly surprised when your earning increases, rather than be waiting for it to happen. If you’re only working part-time as a freelancer, like I do, expect to make a proportionate amount for the hours you’re working as you get up to your first year; don’t expect to make the salary of a full-time worker on a part-time schedule.
A lifestyle match
The last piece to the puzzle of whether or not freelancing is for you has to do with how it fits into the lifestyle you want (not necessarily the one you have.) For me, the choice to freelance was the direct result of me not having the lifestyle I wanted. I wanted more time with my kids. I wanted to be able to schedule their activities in the afternoon, and take them there myself. I wanted my family to be done with their day in time to all sit down together for dinner before bed. And, I wanted to not feel pulled in more than one direction at a time. Freelancing gave me all that I wanted, but I had to sit down and carefully evaluate how many hours a day I could realistically devote to working in order to achieve all those ‘wants’ that had become so important to me.
Once I figured out the time, I had to evaluate whether I could meet my budgetary needs within that timeframe (yes.) Then, I had to think about how self-motivated I’d be to work efficiently within the time I had to freelance to get the work done to meet that budgetary goal (some days are easier than others.) Could I work, earn enough, and still have time to run an occasional errand, do a chore around the house, get to an outside appointment or event? (Yes!) This requires a lot of self-motivation and organization on my part, two traits that I feel are essential to freelancers. Remember, you’re your own boss. There’s nobody else checking up on you, driving you on, so it’s up to you to stay on top of projects and meet deadlines. You want to be the kind of worker people come back to with more work.
Ready to make the shift?
Going freelance can create an ideal situation for someone interested in more professional flexibility, however there are essential points to consider to ensure a successful transition. You need to make sure you’re able to show you have the right experience to freelance in your chosen field first and foremost in order to meet the budgetary goals you set to bring in enough income to make this career move worthwhile. You’ll also need to take a look inward, making sure you have the right personal skills to stay motivated as a freelancer, not to mention enough time in your day to get your work done without infringing on the other aspects of your life that are important. It can be a complicated puzzle, but one that’s integral to assemble before deciding you can make it as a freelancer.