Who would not want to become a freelancer in today’s economic times? Yes, the job market has become a little more stable, but most jobs available only pay you just enough to cover your basic expenses. This is why more people are finding it necessary to have multiple jobs, which will allow them to make more money than they spend. On that vein, more people are pursuing the path of entrepreneurship. But the world of self-employment may not be an easy path to pursue. In fact, you will probably work harder as a freelancer than you will as an employee.
However, this should not discourage you from pursuing your dreams of becoming a full-time freelancer. Rather, it is more of a cautionary tale. To succeed, you should approach your career path with a solid plan. After all, you do not want to go back to your boss begging for your job back. Having to do so would be embarrassing for many reasons, but none more so than the fact that you failed at striking out on your own.
In order to help you avoid the embarrassment of failure, we have put together a list of 4 questions that should help you decide whether to pursue a full-time career as a freelancer.
1) What are my reasons for becoming self-employed?
You could be sick of your boss. Or, you are tired of waking up early every morning to work at a job you hate. Additionally, you have aspirations to live the freelance lifestyle. All these may be your reasons for wanting to become a freelancer, but how many people do you think share the same misery? Most of your fellow employees may share your sentiments, but they remain committed to their job because they have responsibilities to take care of. Similarly, you have responsibilities too. This means you need to make decisions for the long-term and not base them on emotional impulses that do not account for your future.
So, before you make that jump to self-employment, be sure that your reasons are not going to turn into regrets later. If you are desperately trying to leave your job, see if you can cut back on your hours there. This will help you set up your freelancing business while still letting you earn a guaranteed paycheck. If not, you may take on freelancing gigs that pay you pennies because you are desperate to generate some type of income. You do not want to put yourself in this situation because you will be constantly juggling a ton of low paying gigs just to get by every month. As such, it is crucial that you plan your exit before making the final decision to leave your company.
2) Where will I find my first few clients once I become a full-time freelancer?
Ideally, you want to secure your first few clients before becoming a full-time freelancer. But if you choose to quit your job before doing so, you need to hit the ground running and find at least 2-4 clients within 30 days. Living expenses add up quickly, so you need to have some sort of income coming in before your expenses exceed the savings you have on hand.
The first places most freelancers visit are freelancing platforms. Websites such as Upwork, Toptal, Freelancer, and People Per Hour connect freelancers to clients. While you can find plenty of work between the various platforms, it is very competitive there. There are hundreds of other freelancers vying for the same job postings you’re responding to. The two things that set freelancers apart from one another are experience and price. Experience helps you get more gigs and better pay. Inexperience leads to freelancers charging pennies for their services, which some clients prefer. But accordingly, low pay leads to bad quality as that freelancer is rushing through multiple gigs in order to make money.
Secondly, you can market your services on social media. It only takes $5-$10 in Facebook ads to send traffic to your blog/ freelancer website. So, if you invest $50-$100 per month in driving traffic to your website, you can realistically secure at least four new clients (if your sales funnel does its job). Also, you can join different Facebook groups that are related to your profession or target audience. Though, this does not mean that you should visit these groups and start advertising your services. The key to pulling clients from Facebook groups is providing knowledge that showcases your value. When you do this, people will naturally reach out to you and request your help (e.g., improving their processes to yield better results). As such, you can earn a new client just by spending a few minutes responding to a question someone posted in a group.
But you do not want to solely focus all your client acquisition efforts on online tactics. It is important to meet people at networking events and hand out your cards to businesses. Your local community is made up of thousands or even millions of people. How many of these individuals do you think may need your services or know of someone who does? Never overlook your local marketplace because you could be leaving a treasure chest of clients for the next wandering freelancer to find.
3) Am I motivated enough to stay committed to freelancing?
When you become self-employed, you have to exercise extreme discipline. After all, there is no one to report to. Getting out of bed at 6 am is hard to do when 11 am sounds more attractive. But you have to do the tough things to create a successful mind-set, which in turn leads to successful habits. For example, your competitor could already be awake at 2 am looking for prospective clients. At 6 am, they would already be sending out emails to those same clients they found a few hours ago. Therefore, to stay competitive, you must commit to the hustle.
Everything will not be consistently smooth during the freelancing process. Even the act of building your client base will have its ups and downs. There will be times when no one new responds to your pitches and your current clients have no work for you. When this happens, you cannot allow yourself to fold under pressure. In fact, this is the time when you need to work harder and step out of your comfort zone. Case in point, you could visit local businesses to introduce yourself, give an overview of your services, and leave a card. Ultimately, you have to widen your net to catch more fish, especially when your current net is not pulling in any new catches.
4) Can I afford to freelance full-time?
Until you build up your reputation as the go-to copywriter, graphic designer, marketer, etc., you will be constantly chasing clients to keep money flowing into your bank account. That being said, you will have some months where the constant pursuits lead to a great influx of funds. Conversely, you will have other months where people are not responding to your emails, messages, and calls. These are the times when you need to rely on your savings to get you by. As earlier mentioned, this is why you should have six months to a year worth of savings before you embark on the path of freelancing, preparing you for future rainy days.
One other thing to remember is that your rates should be calculated in accordance with your living expenses in mind. Charging $25-$50 for your services may bring you a lot of clients, but you will continually be chasing money in order to make enough. It is better to charge a rate that communicates your value. This will help you attract quality clients who are willing to pay for your services. Remember, quality over quantity. The two distinctions are the difference between making decent money and making great money.
Becoming a freelancer may seem like a sexy choice when you are tired of being an employee. But the grass is not always greener on the other side. Before you decide to quit a guaranteed paycheck in favour of an infrequent one, do your homework to prepare yourself for the self-employed lifestyle. After all, you would want to be fully prepared for the long-haul instead of changing your mind as soon as things become tougher than expected.
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