The freelancing lifestyle of working when you like, wherever you like is a dream for many people trapped in the groundhog day that is 9-5 corporate life. For many it is the intoxicating promise of flexibility that drives them from the relative security of a salaried job into the drama that is freelancing. But it isn't all sweetness and light in the land of the freelancer.
You answer to yourself, need to motivate yourself, have to earn the money yourself and deal with all the flak in between. Moving from the stability and slow pace of the corporate world to the breakneck, dog-eat-dog freelance world is more of a culture shock than many people care to think. So if you're considering leaving your cubicle for one last time and starting up your own freelance business, take heed of these tips to smooth the transition.
- Do research on freelance work in your field – Get as much knowledge as possible beforehand so you do not have to spend time researching after starting. Use the internet and your local libraries to find good, updated information on the freelancing market. Avoid outdated sources.
- Figure out how long it will take to become self-sufficient – Do you already have existing contacts that will provide you with immediate work? If you have to start from scratch making cold calls, you will need resources to keep you afloat until you can establish your business.
- Manage your time -If you plan to only work part-time as a freelancer, make sure that your work will not interfere with your regular employment or other duties. Try to make a practical work schedule giving as much leeway as possible for unforeseen events and difficulties.
- Assess your skills – Make sure that you have the skills and knowledge that will make you desirable for freelance work. Remember you will likely have a lot of competition from other freelancers in the same market. What makes you different? How will you work around your competition to make sure you get enough business?
- Plan your finances – Freelancing can be a very volatile way of making a living. Business can have very high peaks and very low bottoms. Do some thinking about how you will manage when times are not so good. Make sure you have an adequate savings plan, and a “Plan B” in case you can no longer handle your current expenses.
- Learn how to forecast the market – As part of your research, try to learn about how economic cycles impact your particular field of work and keep track of all relevant news in this area. Do not let yourself be the last one to know that a downturn in your particular area of work is approaching!
- Think about maintenance costs – Many people forget to figure in the costs of replacing computers, mobile devices, cell phones and other equipment down the road. In some cases, such costs may be trivial, while in others they can put up substantial obstacles. Do the math so you do not get surprised when your equipment needs replacing.
- Prepare for a tough start – Starting any new venture is difficult in the overwhelming majority of cases. You have to be very lucky, or already have an established reputation for your business to start soaring right from the start. In most cases, you will have to have great patience and great endurance to get things rolling. Prepare yourself mentally and physically.
- You can’t buy a reputation – As a freelancer, the buck stops with you. You will need to adjust your attitude to accommodating your clients as much as possible. When dealing with tough clients, just remember that in an ordinary job you still have to deal with the same clients, and answer to a boss at the same time!
- Develop a positive attitude – Be prepared to be consistently optimistic and upbeat!
By taking some time to prepare before launching your freelance business, you can make the transition much smoother and increase your chances of success. By failing to properly prepare, you can add to the already stressful situations that you are likely to encounter when getting started.