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6 Things To Know Before Going Freelance

May 5, 2016

Encore careers are becoming more and more popular all the time, especially among boomers. There is a certain point in their career in which professionals decide they want a change. It’s not only a change in the type of work they seek, but also a complete restructuring of their work life. They aim for the kind of work that still offers challenges, but also allows them to enjoy other aspects of their life. That is why freelancing is such an attractive avenue.

Freelancing is a unique path that allows you to be in total control of your own work and work life, while taking on projects you are passionate about. There are many upsides to freelance work, as well as a fair share of risks. As with any career decision, you should take to time to consider it and evaluate the situation. But if you are considering a career in freelance work, here are a few things you should know before going forward.

You will miss the office

Working from home offers a lot of freedom. Your schedule is your own, there’s no office politics to deal with and your workspace is totally up to you. But as much as you might enjoy that freedom, and as much as you want to escape the office, you will miss it at times. There is a certain feeling of isolation that comes with freelance work. You may have client meetings or conference calls, but for a large majority of the time you will be on your own.

That feeling of work loneliness can be hard and will be something you need to be comfortable with. It can be a bit of an adjustment and, for some, it may be a major turn off. Prepare yourself for the change of work atmosphere and if it’s not for you, you may want to think again about this move.

It may be more inexpensive than you think

Changing your career is always a major choice. A lot of planning, calculating and thought should go into such a significant decision, but it may not be as costly as you assume.

Becoming your own boss and establishing your own business is daunting and you don’t want to cut corners. And while the decision requires a lot of sacrifices, it shouldn’t be a financial strain for you. It’s unnecessary to take out loans or set up expensive workspaces. The flexibility of freelancing means that those types of costs aren’t needed. You can work in your home, the local library, or anywhere you can be productive. You can meet potential clients in cafes and diners without worrying if it makes you seem less legitimate. You’re one person so of course it’s a small operation, but you can let the quality of your work speak for itself rather than a nice office.

You need to expand your skill set

One thing you’ll notice almost immediately into your freelancing endeavours is that the pressure is all on you. It’s a scary thing to be out there without a safety net. When the job needs to be done, it’s not a team effort—it’s all you.

With all that pressure, you better make sure you can deliver, which is why you’ll need to pick up some new skills very quickly. At the office, if there was an area you weren’t totally confident in, you could collaborate or seek help. There’s no help anymore. You cannot afford to dismiss certain skills as irrelevant, or assume you’ll get by with a cursory knowledge of something. Learn and keep learning until you’re a human Swiss Army knife with the skills for any job.

There will be ebbs and flows

As anxious as you’ll feel starting out on your own, it will feel great getting that first job on your own. Unfortunately, that won’t make the anxiety disappear.

The freelance world is an unpredictable one and unless you are on the absolute top of your game, there probably won’t be a lineup of clients outside your door. In the early days especially, there will be slower days when the work just isn’t coming in and it will feel like this whole thing was a bad idea. And then things will pick back up and you’ll forget why you were even second-guessing yourself. And it will continue like that. The trick is not to lose hope during those down times.

You’ll need to have awkward payment talks

As I mentioned before, when working freelance, all responsibility lies with you, an unfortunately, that includes the financial aspects. Payment conversations are one of the worst parts of this whole deal and they can really be uncomfortable. It will start with you figuring out your own price—something reasonable enough for clients to accept, while not underselling your skills. Then will come the negotiations, which can be pretty trying.

Worst of all (and most importantly) is actually settling the bill. Believe it or not, but there are certain people that seek to take advantage of innocent freelancers. You must be diligent on receiving payments on time and do not be afraid to pester those who haven’t paid promptly. You did the job, you deserve to be paid. Take no excuses.

You’re your own boss (for better and worse)

It truly is a freeing experience to be your own boss. At a certain point in your career, having to answer to a superior of any kind feels straining. Being your own boss means you set your own schedule, you work at your own speed, you judge the quality of your own work. That isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Freelance work will make you appreciate every boss you ever had. Motivating yourself to get the work done is not as easy as it seems. You have to create schedules and deadlines for yourself and also monitor your own work progress to keep yourself on track. It’s very easy to get lazy and cut corners as a freelancer. So if you were hoping for a job with no boss, the sad truth is that no such job exists. You are the boss and the employee. And you need to be a tough boss.

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