Working Freelance may seem like a dream-come-true, as you can set your own hours and follow your own rules. However it really is hard work, and there are lots of things to think about before you actually quit your day job. Here are six things to consider before you go freelance.
It can take months of preparation
Start securing clients LONG before you quit your job. Whatever you do, don’t decide to quit, and then start looking around for work, as it can take months to secure new clients and build up relationships. I started working freelance during evenings and weekends around eight months before I actually quit my job. It meant that some days I was working 15-16 hours a day, and staying up well into the small hours of the morning in order to meet deadlines. It was such hard work, and really stressful at times, but if you’re committed to the idea of going freelance it’s only a minor inconvenience in the short term. Plus this experience will allow you to tell whether freelancing is really for you
You need proper office space
Ideally you should have a desk, comfortable chair, and some drawers or shelving at home where you can sit down to work every day. While it may seem appealing in the beginning to lounge around on the couch, it just isn’t condusive to getting a full day’s work done. You also need somewhere to store paperwork so it’s easily accessible when required, and you don’t have to go hunting round the house for it. If you don’t have space at home, there are many office spaces available for rent, but obviously this will eat into your earnings. A cheaper version of this is co-working – where other freelancers share the costs of renting an office.
Sort out your finances
Be prepared with your finances before going freelance. Payment can vary month to month and clients don’t always pay on time. If you’re working just now then put as much into your savings as you can, so you’ll have something to fall back on if work suddenly dries up. Remember that a lot of businesses stop trading for two weeks during Christmas and New Year, and if you take time off you won’t get any holiday pay, so budget accordingly. I actually took a weekend job in a local coffee shop for the first few months after I started, just so I had some regular income while I found my feet.
It’s a lonely job
Freelancing may seem like a dream come true, especially if there’s an office bitch at work that you’re dying to escape from. What many people don’t realise, is that freelancers often don’t have any interaction from people for days or weeks at a time. This means it is often lonely.
I’ve joined a writers’ group in my local area so I can meet like-minded people; and I also try to make a point of spending at least one day a week out of the house (with my laptop of course!) – whether it’s in the park on a sunny day, or just down at the local coffee shop taking advantage of the free WiFi. Human interaction is important, and you can quickly become depressed if you don’t leave the house for days on end.
Clients take advantage
My very first client would often phone me at 11pm when I was in bed and demand that something be uploaded onto the website immediately. In my eagerness to please, I did it on more than one occasion. Now I know how ridiculous and unreasonable he was being, but I think there are a lot of clients out there who would similarly try and take advantage of inexperienced freelancers.
I now have a rule of never answering telephone calls from clients after 6pm. I set the same hours each week, and try to stick to these as much as possible (I work a late night on Tuesday so I can finish early on a Friday). If a client asks you to work a weekend, or to have something completed in 24 hours then you should charge extra for this, and don’t be shy or embarrassed to do so. Similarly, if a client has forgotten to pay an invoice then it’s up to you to chase them for it.
It isn’t glamorous
A lot of people have an idea that freelance writing (or any type of freelancing) is a glamorous job. They may think of a Carrie Bradshaw sort of character who spends an hour on the computer in the morning, then goes shopping for shoes in the afternoon. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Most of the time when you’re not actually writing you’ll be marketing, building a website, prospecting and pitching new clients, and completing invoicing and admin tasks. Writing only takes up a very small part of your day!