Freelancing – questions before you take the leap
Are you considering freelancing? You are at the right place. I am celebrating one year of freelancing this month. I feel this is the perfect opportunity to sum up my experiences and share the lessons I’ve learned, so you have some straight questions to reflect upon, before you take the leap. Even though I am personally well-tailored for this type of work, not everyone is. It is worth considering a few things before you jump into the unknown, so the adventure won’t end in tears.
It is important to note that freelancing is not a higher form of living than being employed. It’s simply that we are all different and not everyone’s needs are the same. For me, the difference was major: it felt as if I had gone from kindergarden straight to university. Suddenly nobody took care of me, every area of work was my own responsibility. In return, no one told me when to get up, when to work, when to eat or even pee. For others, security is more important, for which they are willing to give up their complete freedom. And there is nothing wrong with that.
You still think you would prefer freedom, with all its difficulties? Ask yourself the following questions!
How draining is your current job?
This is a multi-factor question: a job can be draining physically, mentally or emotionally. If you need all your knowledge and creativity at the office, you will hardly have the strength left to build a business after work. If your colleagues are draining you emotionally, you probably won’t be networking cheerfully with your followers. However, if you work part-time, for example, and/or have the energy to build your business besides having a day job, there is no need to leave the secure place. Most businesses start as a side-hustle, and even if you work in a café, there is nobody stopping you calling yourself a “writer” for instance (as Elizabeth Gilbert did).
How reliable is your freelance income/savings?
If you haven’t earned enough money from your business in the past 6 months at least, and/or have no back-up of the same size behind you, you should consider if it’s a good idea to leave your job. Your business is likely to grow as you put all your energy into it, but it’s not an elegant thing to live on a loan until things work out.
How will you deal with taxes?
Educate yourself on how you can legally operate your business before you actually hand in your notice. In Hungary, the climate for small businesses is not the most supportive in this respect, so it’s really important to calculate it in your finances.
Is your personality right for freelancing?
One of the most important questions to think about is whether you can motivate yourself when there is no boss swinging an axe above your head? No matter how much you love your profession, there will always be tasks you do not like. Can you overcome these, and do the job despite all the ‘I don’t feel like it’ feelings? If not, can you/have you got the means to delegate these tasks?
How much can you stand being alone? Although some people create businesses in a partnership of 2-3, a classic freelancer works alone. If you can’t stand being alone or a home environment distracts you from working effectively, where are you going to work? If you choose a co-working office, have you included this in the budget?
Can you deal with uncertainty? In the life of most businesses, there is a cycle of busier and quieter periods, so you cannot expect to have the same income month after month (although this depends on your profession). Talking of which…
What about saving money?
If you are the type of person who spends his/her salary immediately after receiving it, then freelancing is not your thing. Since you can only predict next month’s income, you should always have some sort of back-up behind you. If you are lucky enough to get a grand project, you need to consider how much of your earnings you want to save, how much you want/need to spend, and how much should be re-invested in the business.
Other things to keep in mind
- You will not work less than as an employee. If there is any change, you will probably work more.
- Many of your friends who work as employees will think that “you are not doing anything”, “you are unemployed”, and will delegate different tasks to you, because “you have the time.” Nearly all freelancers struggle with this at the beginning.
- Your family and friends are likely to panic immediately: “How will you make ends meet?” Beware.
- There will be those people around you, who will want you to work for free on basis of your ‘good relationship’ or because ‘you should not ask for payment from family’. It is up to you how you deal with this, of course, but keep in mind that if you work for free/cheap, you will get a reputation for it, which you obviously don’t want, but worse, you will reduce the value of the entire industry.
- If you decide to go back to work as an employee, that is neither failure, nor shameful. Many artists choose not to put the pressure of money on their creativity, they prefer to do something that doesn’t suck their energy levels too much. And this doesn’t reduce their value as artists.
In addition to the questions mentioned above, you may have personal reasons to decide on freelancing or working as an employee. For me, these were the most important questions before I took the leap, but I am not an expert on the subject, the things above only reflect my experiences.
I can’t say that every minute of my freelance life has been bliss, and I’m still in the process of finding the ideal work-life balance. I am still stressing over “quieter” months, yet I think it was a good decision to go in this direction.
If you have any questions, feel free to comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will answer your question as best as I can.