Ah the life of a freelancer- so filled with rumours of afternoon naps, calling the shots on your destiny and long sun soaked days with you and your laptop taking in a stellar view. So feared by parents and partners who think they may have to end up subsidising your decision somewhere down the track.
But what is the reality of what it takes to be a freelancer? And are you going to be cut out for it?
Let’s take a look at the things that will determine if you are cut out to be a freelancer.
You can do the hustle
Every day as a freelancer is spent hustling. You’ll need to hustle for jobs, hustle to get the invoices paid and hustle yourself into action. Freelancing doesn’t work if you are used to being a little more passive in life. You have to shake your money maker to make the money.
If you feel uncomfortable with the idea of having to ring someone every to remind them to pay you or the idea of approaching a business via cold calling, cold email or across a crowded room with a perfect pitch prepared, freelancing probably won’t be for you.
There’s a cheesy salesman in all of us
As a freelancer, you have to be your own bow tie wearing, self promoting marketing machine. Even if you let the work do all the talking, the work must be marketed and put out there for people to see. There is no blushing beet red and disappearing into your collar when someone says they like your work.
In fact, you’ll have to be prepared to respond with a thank you, an explanation of the inspiration for the work, and a question of whether the person you are talking to is interested in that kind of work without having your awkwardness show.
It may take a while, or it may be your natural state, but having a cheesy salesman at your core makes freelance life a heck of a lot easier.
Wearing many hats
Guess who the IT guy is when you become a freelancer? What about the admin assistant, marketing manager, client services person and the business development department? Yep- you.
As a freelancer, your work life becomes one of troubleshooting technical glitches, chasing up the invoices, buying the office supplies, promoting yourself to your customers, staying up with the latest changes in your industry, looking after the customers you land and finding more of the same. All these processes happen simultaneously while you are doing the actual work for the client.
In order to survive this, you need to either get super organised, or get over the romantic notions often tied to freelancer life. You’ll be constantly expected to learn, navigate people and deliver your work to specification and on time while doing things you probably hate doing. You need to be self sufficient to a fairly large degree. It’s like being MacGyver without the physics degree and Selma love.
You enjoy your own company
If you are currently working in an office and need a friend to go to lunch with you every day to stop from feeling alone, do not become a freelancer.
If you can only survive with a peer bouncing ideas around before you can actually start some work, do not become a freelancer.
If you cannot will yourself to sit at a desk in isolation for massive chunks of hours, do not become a freelancer.
This deserves highlighting because one of the biggest issues freelancers face is that feeling of being isolated. Your customers are your customers and will not be a replacement for your workmates.
And life as a freelancer can be really, really hard. You will have rotten days and even the most supportive partner or friends won’t get it unless they freelance, too.
It’s a lot of time spent in your own head, so you must enjoy your own company to survive. Oh, and a dog helps.
You are a good saver
If you have the financial prowess of a dead canary, freelancing is going to cause you a lot of pain. Freelancers soon learn that squirreling money away for the client winters and tax times make life a lot less stressful.
Even if you have steady contract work, it’s best to always have a buffer of money, and be in a position to downsize your costs if need be. The reality of freelance life is that businesses will pay late, the tax man will come knocking, vital equipment will need replacing, and things you don’t expect to happen will happen.
The money doesn’t last forever and is influenced by every budget handed down by the government through to what’s trendy on the street. So making sure you have enough money to make a modest snow angel in is vital.
Oh, and if you don’t want to eat dog food in a very cheap nursing home in your twilight years, get some superannuation happening.
The bottom line:
Beyond the skills to pay the bills, you need to be made of the sort of fabric that allows you to be tough, durable, flexible and low maintenance all at the same time.
So tell me, are you still cut out to be a freelancer after reading this?
Why not come and share your thoughts via the Freelance Jungle Online.