Are You Sure You Want to Be a Freelancer?

Freelancing is a tough career choice. There are a lot of uncertainties associated with being self-employed, a variable income being the most obvious. For many, however, nothing beats the freedom of working at home, to a schedule all of your own choosing. However, before you get too excited about the notion of never having to take your PJs off, it is a good idea to think carefully about whether freelancing is the right move for you.

Your Choice or No Choice

It would be nice to have a choice about whether to work freelance or not, but if you have lost your job, now is a good time to think about what happens next. Being told you need to look for a new job is never fun, even if the writing has been on the wall for a while. It may even have come as a complete shock.

This has happened to me. I knew my job was coming to an end, but didn’t think it would be yet. Sadly, my employer had other ideas and one Monday afternoon I was given the good news part-way through an informal chat. Not great!

Still, when life throws you some lemons, it is time to make lemonade.

The end of a job is a chance to take a different path in life. You could look for another position, but if you have marketable skills, why not consider freelancing?

The Pros and Cons of being a Freelancer

Let’s look at the negatives of freelancing first.

As I have already mentioned, the biggest problem with working as a freelancer is the variable income. It tends to be feast or famine, so one week you could be loaded, and the next broke. To a certain extent, there might not be much you can do to prevent peaks and troughs in your income, so it is sensible to keep a reserve fund to cover the lean times.

When you have a family to support, a variable income is not going to work for you. Be realistic here. Do you have a mortgage to pay, loans to service and kids to feed? Can you afford to not have an income for a week if work dries up? If the answer is “no”, you need to start looking for a regular job and maybe stick to part-time freelancing for extra income as and when you need it.

As a freelancer, you won’t have access to sick pay, holiday pay, employer’s pension contributions, healthcare insurance, a company car, and anything else you would normal receive as part of your salary. These little perks are worth a great deal to some people. Are you one of them?

Now it’s time to consider the benefits of working as a freelancer.

Freelancing means you can work whatever hours you like. So if you wake up on a Monday morning and it’s a glorious day, you are free to head to the beach for a few hours. Or at least that’s how it works in theory. In practice you will probably have deadlines to meet, clients sending emails chasing up work, and a shed-load of admin to do. Oh well!

Actually it isn’t so bad. You really are free to manage your own time, which is perfect if you have kids to ferry around or a dog to walk. Instead of wasting time in pointless meetings, you can maximise your working day and be a lot more productive. In theory.

Looking for Work

As an employee, it’s pretty easy. Your boss gives you tasks to do and you get on with them. Everyone is happy. As a freelancer, you are responsible for finding work and clients. If you don’t make a good job of it, there will soon be tumbleweeds rolling through your bank account.

Until you are established as a freelancer, clients are unlikely to be beating a path to your door, so you need to put a lot of time and effort into marketing your skills. You can do this online or offline – it all depends on where you expect to find potential clients. Either way, devote at least some time every day to marketing.

Taking Care of the Admin

You cannot afford to ignore the admin when working as a freelancer. The end of the Tax Year has a habit of rolling around pretty quickly, and if you are not on the ball, you might end up missing the deadline for submitting the necessary paperwork. Be organised, stay on top of your bookkeeping, and if in doubt, speak to an accountant.

Life as a freelancer is not all plain sailing, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you disagree, let me know!

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Rachel

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