20 Things to Consider Before You Become a Freelancer (From an Industry Veteran)

Considering becoming a freelancer? Before you quit your full-time job, there are a few things you need to consider. Lend your ear to the industry veterans and learn from what they have to say about working as a freelancer before you take the plunge. 

Becoming a freelancer can be one of the most rewarding life choices you ever make, but your rise to success won’t be without difficulty and hard work. If you are fully prepared for what freelance life is all about, you will be able to strategically plan for your own success. Read on to find out what you need to consider before becoming a freelancer.

Think about these 20 things before becoming a freelancer:

1. It can be a lonely career path.

Freelancing typically means working from home. This means that you have to say goodbye to work buddies, joint lunches, and laughing over memes together. Instead, you will work solo, and that can be lonely sometimes. It can also be quite enjoyable sometimes.

2. You have to market yourself a lot.

When you become a freelancer, you have to become really comfortable with self-promotion. You aren’t going to secure clients simply by wishing for them. Instead, you have to advertise and promote your services and skills consistently. This isn’t something you have to do when you work for someone else. 

3. Steady, regular income is not guaranteed.

When you work for someone else full time, you have the luxury and stability of a regular, set income. When you freelance, you can earn more, but you also have no guarantees when it comes to a stable and regular income. 

4. You may have to work a lot of overtime to become established.

Becoming a freelancer will take time and effort. You will have to put in extra hours and a lot of hard work to get yourself established in the marketplace. You may have to forget about a regular 9 to 5 job for a bit and focus on putting in as much time as is necessary to grow your business. 

5. You should have some savings before you start.

Do you know the saying “plan for rainy days”? That’s exactly what you need to do before you can become a freelancer. There will be days and months where you simply earn too little to get by, especially in the first few months. You will need to ensure that you have a savings (safety net) to fall back on during those months. If you start freelancing before you have savings organized, you could find yourself unable to pay your bills or live comfortably when business is slow. 

6. You will have to become a time-management and scheduling pro.

When you work for someone else, your time and schedule are pretty much planned for you. You are given a certain workload to work through in a given time frame. When you start to freelance, you are the person that dictates that schedule and time frame. If you have never done that before, you might want to do some research and get a little practice in before you get started. 

7. You may be financially unstable for a while.

It’s going to take a bit of time before you are considered financially stable. You might find yourself budgeting for everything, which can become uncomfortable and annoying. Give it time – don’t give up too soon just because money is a little tight. Try to keep your business flexible and innovative so that there is always room for growth. 

8. Time is money.

As a full-time employee of someone else, you probably don’t realize just how important time is. When you start to freelance, you will learn that time is money. You are one person, and you can only get a certain amount of work done in a given period of time…and this means that your income can become rather limited if you are wasteful of time. The sooner you realize that time is money and start working accordingly, the sooner you will get ahead as a freelancer. 

9. You have to make time for yourself (rest and repair).

Employers are expected to take care of their employees. This means giving them time off when they are sick, allowing them some perks on the job, and also ensuring that they get holiday and leave time so that they can rest and repair. Just because you start freelancing, it doesn’t mean that you suddenly stop needing these things. When you start to freelance, make sure that you schedule at least some time for yourself. Your productivity levels depend on it. 

10. Some clients and customers will try to take advantage of you.

Some clients know that freelance work can sometimes be hard to come by, and so they might try to take advantage of you. Some might ask for a discount or try to get you to put in extra hours or throw in freebies. Be very clear about what you offer and for how much, and don’t undersell yourself too often. If you do a favor for a client, make sure that they know that it is a once-off. 

11. Educating and honing your skills is vitally important.

Keep educating yourself in your chosen industry. Skills development is important, and as a freelancer, you need to ensure that you remain current with your skills and expertise. Full-time employees of companies benefit from the company-provided training. When you freelance, you will need to get this training for yourself. 

12. You will have to wear many hats.

As a freelancer, you cannot rely on other people to fill certain roles. You need to be the client liaison, the accountant, the advertiser, the service provider, and everything in between. Be prepared for this!

13. You are responsible for your own tax issues.

When you work for someone else, they will typically take care of your tax for you. This is usually automatically taken from your salary. As a freelancer, you are solely responsible for calculating and paying your own taxes. 

14. The freelance market is highly competitive. 

Be prepared to face a highly competitive marketplace. You won’t be the only freelancer in your industry, and so you will need to ensure that you have an exceptional service to offer. Make sure that your customer service levels are top-notch and that the work you provide is of the highest possible quality. 

15. You will have to chase payments.

Don’t expect clients to pay you…you have to make it happen. Some clients will leave an invoice unpaid for as long as they don’t hear from you, so be prepared to make those uncomfortable phone calls to get your money in. 

16. It requires a lot of discipline and self-motivation.

Freelancing isn’t something that’s easy. It’s going to require you to be very dedicated. If you’re easily distracted and lack motivation, you may never get anything done. Make sure that you are aware of just how highly motivated you have to be as a freelancer. You can’t just “wing it”.

17. You are responsible for all client communication and happiness (there’s no buffer).

When something goes wrong with a client, you are going to be solely responsible for dealing with them. When working for someone else, you will usually be able to use a manager or supervisor as a buffer. This buffer falls away when you become a freelancer. You will communicate directly with clients. 

18. You will fail on occasion – and that’s okay.

There will be times when you get things wrong, miss a deadline, or absolutely fail at a project, and while this can seem like the end of the world, learn from it and move on. Realizing that failure is a part of life is vitally important before becoming a freelancer.

19. You may need a transition period (start part-time).

You might not be able to jump straight from being a full-time employee to a freelancer. Instead, try to take on freelance clients in the evenings and weekends to see how it goes. Once you have a bit of experience and are comfortable that the market is there, you can break away from your secure job. 

20. People will expect more from you.

You might find that as a freelancer, the people who hire you have far higher expectations of you than they would of a business. This is normal…it’s typical for people to expect sole freelancers to be more accountable. Make sure you clearly communicate what your service entails and what the associated costs are. 

Last word

By being prepared for the challenges of freelancing, you can expect to be just a bit more successful when you take the plunge. First, consider all that can go wrong (and right) and then take the next step. Be prepared, take a deep breath and take a leap of faith – this could be the very best decision you ever make for yourself.