These days, full-time jobs—with health benefits, 401k’s and cubicles—are feeling awfully quaint. In a trend led by millennials, an ever-increasing percentage of the workforce is going freelance, diversifying their skills and interests to create a new breed of employment that trades security for both freedom and meaning in work. Those who value autonomy and flexibility over a steady paycheck might consider jumping on this bandwagon, but it’s important to realize before doing so that self-employment isn’t all pajamas and midday rosé. The freelancer’s struggle can be real, and a boss-free existence is not a lifestyle choice that suits every personality. Here, 5 important things to consider before making the move.
The 411 On Freelancing
Do you have a marketable skill?
If you are straight out of college, have no work experience or concrete skills such as web development, graphic design or copy writing, you might want to hold off on being your own boss. However, if you’ve labored away for ten years as a digital marketer and are looking to consult for several companies instead of working full-time for just one, you might be in business.
Do you have a strong network?
Success in building your own business relies heavily on being able to reach out to your contacts for job leads. If you don’t already have a strong network in the line of work you’re seeking, you can attend conferences, join groups or treat LinkedIn like a full-time job for a few weeks in order to create one.
Do you have a financial cushion?
It’s generally advisable to have at least six months of expenses in the bank before quitting your 9-to-5 to go freelance, as it can take time to find clients—particularly steady ones. Also, the freelance lifestyle tends to be a bit "feast or famine" in nature, so you’ll want to have a nest egg to fall back on in hard times before you begin.
Do you know your worth?
Start by understanding how much a full-time position for your skill set pays. Once you have that number, add 20% to cover health insurance, non-billable admin work and miscellaneous business expenses—that’s how much you need to be able to charge your clients in order to make ends meet. Note: Your rate should, however, reflect the amount of guaranteed work you are doing. For example, someone that pays on a monthly basis should pay a lower per-hour rate than someone who just pays by the hour.
Do you like to work really, really hard?
As a freelancer, you’re not just hustling to get projects completed (and completed well). You’re also hustling to get more and more projects on your plate while simultaneously acting as office manager, assistant, accountant and whatever else your business might need on top of the work you’re actually getting paid to do each week. Add to this the pressure of pleasing hard-to-impress clients who often count every dollar they’re spending on you, and the freelance lifestyle can be infinitely more stressful than clocking in for someone else. If you’re not sure it’s for you, we suggest you ‘try before you buy’ - do some moonlighting as a freelancer or consultant before quitting your 9-to-5 to see if the lifestyle is a good fit.