By: Kathy Shalhoub
So you want to be a freelancer, yes? Well, wanting something is great, and doing it is even greater. But to actually do it, and be good at it, and have someone pay you for it, you should probably ask yourselves a few questions first.
- Do you like being alone?
Sadly, most of freelance work involves you and your skill and no one else. Can you handle that? Some people are made for it, some people aren’t. Think about this point very seriously and don’t try to convince yourself that it could work if it can’t! If you crave company, can you find it? Can you go work in a coffee shop, work with a friend, or find common spaces where other freelancers get together?
- Where are you now?
Ok, what does this mean. It means if you’ve been working in marketing all your life you can’t suddenly quit your job and decide you want to be a freelance photographer and expect the jobs to start coming in. If that’s what you want to be, you need to build up to it and start gradually. Figure out where you are, where you want to be, then find a reasonable (and realistic!) path to getting there.
- Can you afford it?
Need I elaborate? I will anyway just in case. Unless someone can support you while your freelancing career takes off, then you need X amount of Dirhams, Liras or Dollars per month to live on (at least). It will take you Y amount of months when you first start freelancing for you to start making X/month, so you will need to have at least X*Y amount of money in the bank before you start! Develop a financial plan, create a budget for yourself, and stick to it! That means you may have to pass up a couple nights out or those Prada shoes if things are a little slow this month.
- Are you flexible and organized?
Ok, freelancing 101. Assignment comes in, you have a deadline in three weeks. No problem! You have time, it can wait. Two days before it’s due, you sit down to work on it, and all of a sudden three more assignments roll in the following day. Ooopsie! Now you need to pull a couple all-nighters to finish everything. But what about the Madonna concert you have tickets to? No problem, you have notes that will help you finish everything on time! But where are they? Rats, you stuffed them into the cat’s litter box when you were out of litter. It’s ok, you’ll just tell them you’re too busy. Ahem, check your financial plan, can you afford to pass up a couple projects? Be organized! Develop a schedule that works for you, and work for that schedule!
- Can you separate work from life?
Anyone who’s been in a relationship with a ‘freelancer-who-can’t’, will tell you how much they hate it! If you think it’s bad when full-timers are checking their Blackberry every ten minutes, try a freelancer running to her computer every nanosecond you turn your back, so that she can just finish that one last thing that’s been bothering her. If you plan to live with someone more conversational than a toaster for any period of time, develop a relatively normal work schedule and stick to it. Your personal life will thank you!
- Can you be your own boss?
Wait a second! I thought the whole perk of being a freelancer is that you don’t have a boss? Sorry guys, but no matter how much a boss sucks, they do one thing that is imperative to your success: they keep you on track! That means that in the space of an hour, you don’t get a 15-minute cigarette break, a 20-minute coffee break and a 10-minute bathroom break before you’ve even started your project! Being your own boss means pushing yourself to work hard and to be self-disciplined. Otherwise, find someone to do it for you i.e. get a job!
- Can you sell yourself?
Listen, I’m a freelancer not a salesman! Ok ok I know but… you want work? Sell yourself. And do it well! It’s as simple as that. See previous post: Know Yourself, Sell Yourself!
- Can you say ‘No’, and can you handle it when someone says ‘No’ to you?
Imagine this: You haven’t had work for three weeks and that whole budget thing is hanging over your head. Was there a project you were putting off until now? Was there some networking you’ve been planning to do? Now is the time! All of a sudden, a few projects come up with the same deadline. No problem! You’ll just rush through them all and do a mediocre job for everyone, right? Will that get you repeat customers? Nope! Will that help your bottom line? Only this month. Don’t take on more than you can handle, and keep a backup plan for any unplanned stretches of free time.
That’s all folks! Happy Freelancing and enjoy your funemployment!
Disclaimers: I didn’t come up with ‘funemployment’, I read it somewhere on Facebook. And also, this post is based on content from Get a Freelance Life by Margit Feury Ragland.
Blogger’s Bio: Kathy studied engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has a PhD in Marine Sciences from the University of Paris. She is also a writer and published her first book, Life as a Leb-neh Lover, in 2010. Kathy is fascinated by matters of the mind, self discovery, self acceptance and personal development and is currently researching these topics. Check out her blog, ‘like’ her on Facebook or follow her on twitter @Lebneh_Lover.