Many dream of the day when they are no longer chained to a desk, required to work 9-5 and committed to one employer. For these people, working freelance is the highest achievement, the culmination of years spent “doing their time.”
Working as a freelancer certainly comes with its own benefits, like setting your own schedule, choosing your own clients and having the freedom and flexibility to work where and how you want. But there are challenges as well, such as the unpredictability of your income and the never-ending process of acquiring new clients.
If you’re looking to make the transition to working as a freelance content creator, you need to be prepared. And even if you’ve already made the transition, there are a few things you should know to make life working for yourself easier. Here are five truths you should know about working freelance.
1. You’re in charge of your schedule
The top three reasons people say they want to freelance are to be their own boss, have a flexible work schedule and have a flexible work location. Sounds nice, right? Not having to rush to get to the office on time, not having to wake up before the crack of dawn and even not having to work a full eight hours every day.
As a freelancer, your hours aren’t set in stone - some days you’ll work more and some days less. The important thing is you’ll have the freedom to do your work the way that works best for you. In fact, 77% of freelancers agree that freelancing provides a good work-life balance.
But setting your own schedule can have its downsides too. While you have freedom and flexibility, you still need to do your work. You have to be disciplined enough to get the work done on time. No one is going to be there to hold your hand or prompt you along the way.
2. You are your personal brand
Besides the actual work of creating content, there are other tasks that you need to accomplish. Running your own freelance business means you are now a jack-of-all-trades. You are the marketer, accountant, CEO and salesperson - and you have all the responsibilities that come with each of those roles.
Marketing yourself is especially important for freelancers, especially for those just starting out. The key to gaining new clients is to present yourself in a positive light and always be on the lookout for new opportunities.
You need to make sure you set aside time in your schedule for networking. Use the connections you already have to find new opportunities, and don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and network with new contacts.
3. Finding jobs isn’t always easy
Working as a freelancer often means taking on temporary assignments. And if you’re always working on a temporary basis, you’re always going to be on the hunt for new jobs. Pitching new clients and researching potential opportunities are other tasks you need to set aside time for.
“As a freelancer your biggest advantage is that you only need a handful of clients to succeed,” says Robert Williams of LetsWorkshop.com. “Most companies need to find thousands of customers. You only need to find one at a time.”
To start looking for clients, begin by ensuring all of your social media profiles are up to date. Keep a portfolio of your best work ready to go and a stack of business cards handy. You never know when you’ll run into someone who may be the link to your next big opportunity.
4. Your income isn’t always steady
As a freelancer, you’ll never have the job security that someone working as a full-time employee would. Jobs may come and go, and you’ll never be able to not hustle. In fact, 57% of freelancers say they have cash flow issues at times. You should constantly be prepared for the possibility of losing a client - or of not finding clients at all.
Sara Horowitz, founder of the Freelancers Union, says, “You can think of freelancing as volatile and risky, or as flexible and opportunity-rich. Doesn’t having multiple sources of income and multiple moneymaking skills sound less risky than putting all your eggs in one employer’s basket? Freelancing lets you shift gears when the world does.”
While it may sound risky to always be gaining and losing jobs, if you can diversify your client base you’ll have a solid foundation. That means you shouldn’t have to rely on just one client. You need to position yourself so that if you ever lose a client unexpectedly you won’t suffer.
5. You shouldn’t have to settle
Do a quick Google search of “freelance jobs” and there will be thousands upon thousands of results. But that doesn’t mean all of the jobs advertised will be right for you. Ads looking for freelancers to write a 500-word blog post for $20 are a dime a dozen. But the time you put into writing that blog post will be worth way more than that.
Don’t sell yourself short. Know your worth and fight for the rate you deserve. After all, if you’re throwing all your eggs into the freelancing basket, you need to ensure that basket offers enough support.
“Sometimes you have to ask and you have to remind people of just how great your work is,” says Katie Lane, attorney and blogger at Work Made for Hire. “It doesn’t make you any less valuable because you’re the one who had to bring it up. You have to be your best advocate.”
Are you looking to make the transition to freelancing? What do you think will be the biggest challenge? What are you most looking forward to? Let me know in the comments below: