Is going freelance a viable career option for you?

In this exclusive extract from Startups’ latest book, Going Freelance, find out the pros and cons of freelance work

More money, more varied work, and more control over your working life. Who wouldn’t want to be a freelancer? Freelancing sounds very attractive, but these advantages are just one side of the equation.

Setting aside the fact that some people may be forced by economic necessity into freelancing, it doesn’t suit everybody.

Key points to consider before going freelance

Whether you are doing a bit of freelancing on the side of your main job or making freelancing your new full-time occupation, there are a few things that you should bear in mind. Don’t be completely seduced by the upside, because there is also an accompanying downside.

Freelancing differs from a full-time salaried job in a number of respects, not least the fact that there is no longer the comfort of a salary miraculously popping into your bank account at the end of the month. You have to find your own work, deliver to exacting deadlines, work out what you are going to charge for work, and keep that supply of work coming in.

There are also a lot of plates to spin. As a freelancer, you are effectively a one-person corporation. So, as well as actually doing the work, you need to be:

  • the marketing person raising awareness of your skills and availability
  • the salesperson, who converts that interest into paid work
  • the accounts department, which generates the invoices, chases payment and deals with your accounts and tax returns, and don’t forget VAT. If you have outgoings, you will also have to deal with payments to your suppliers
  • the client services person who liaises with clients to ensure a smooth working relationship
  • the IT department when your computer goes on the blink
  • the office cleaner at the end of the day.

You will also be responsible for your own training and making sure your skills are up to date as well as any general administration that would have been handled by somebody else in a bigger company. Once you are out on your own there is no longer the shelter of senior employees to correct your mistakes or cover your faults. For this reason, freelancers are typically well rounded in their skills.

So, is freelancing for you?

Here are some things to bear in mind before making that decision.

Finding work

As companies make redundancies and restructure to leaner, meaner operations, there is a lot of freelance work out there as companies look to outsource more work. But getting a job is a job in itself. Think carefully about where your work is likely to come from. Will there be enough of it and will it be regular enough? What will it pay? As well as existing contacts, you will need to market yourself a bit more and let people know about what you can do. What will your strategy be?

Your skills

Do you have skills or experience that others require? The more in-demand your skills are, the more work you will generate and the higher the fees you can command. This is why it is often better to embark on a freelance career later in your career. Clients use freelancers where they have a skills gap of their own, and it’s more likely that somebody with a packed CV is going to be in demand than a new starter.

Will you earn enough?

Take a close look at what you need to earn in a given month and try to honestly assess whether you can earn that through freelancing. Day rates for freelancing may sound fantastic as a pro rata calculation, but what about the days when you are not needed? Also, work into your calculations how you will fund holidays, illness and other downtime.

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