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Sometimes, we need a little boost to follow our dreams. Perhaps you want more flexibility in your working arrangements. Perhaps you need a more fulfilling career that provides purpose to your life. Or perhaps you simply want to work for yourself and earn more money. Freelancing might provide the answers – but there are a few things you should check in with yourself about before quitting your job and striking out alone.
Am I becoming self-employed for the right reasons?
Becoming self-employed isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly. If you’re choosing to enter the world of self-employment because you hate your boss or you feel unhappy in your current work situation, stop and think about whether you’re going freelance for the right reasons.
There are many good reasons for going freelance: to be your own boss, to ditch the commute and spend more time with your family, or simply to have greater flexibility in your life.
Remember, you can leave your job without really leaving your job.
Every employee has the right to request more flexible working hours for any reason. This means – presuming your employer grants your request – you can dip your toes in the freelance waters while maintaining the safety net of a salary.
Slowly reducing your hours while you build up your freelance business is a great way to leave your job while minimising money worries.
How can I find work when becoming self-employed?
Finding work when you’re a freelancer is imperative to your success. Without work, there’s no steady income, and without any steady income, you’ll find yourself struggling financially.
Put some shout-outs to your social circle. Chances are someone will have a friend of a friend that needs a writer, photographer, IT consultant, or whatever your specialisation is. It doesn’t hurt to ask your pals and peers – what are friends for, anyway?Perhaps you need a more fulfilling career that provides purpose to your life. Or perhaps you simply want to work for yourself and earn more money. Freelancing might provide the answers.Click To TweetPerhaps you need a more fulfilling career that provides purpose to your life. Or perhaps you simply want to work for yourself and earn more money. Freelancing might provide the answers.
Whatever your industry, there’s a good chance there’s an online marketplace or recruitment platform out there to help you find work. There’s a great range of freelance job websites available if you’re starting out.
We recommend attending networking events to grow your business and to meet prospective clients.
Will becoming self-employed fit in with my lifestyle?
Freelancing can mean different schedules for different people. Some get their work done when the kids are asleep in the evening, some are up at the crack of dawn putting in a few hours of business before anyone else is awake. Whatever your lifestyle, make sure going freelance can fit in with how you operate and work.
There’s little point in leaving the nine-to-five behind if you’re just exchanging it for a nine-to-five at your kitchen table. Making the most of a freelance lifestyle means working when you want to, and stopping work when you want to.
The biggest issue with the typical ‘nine-to-five’ mentality is just how many hours this leaves on the table. There aren’t many economies left in the world that aren’t global on some level. Schedules that were determined scores ago didn’t take time zones into account.
They didn’t take the internet into account. They didn’t take voicemail and inboxes and notifications and mobility into account. It’s time we started accounting for all of that.
Basically, if you want to do something in the middle of the day there’s nothing stopping you. You can make those hours up later, or just accept the lost earnings. The pursuit of this freedom is what leads many freelancers to leave their jobs in the first place.
Becoming self-employed can also mean you’ll spend a great deal of time alone. Perfect if you’re a true introvert at heart, but not so great if you’re even slightly extroverted and enjoy being around other people. Going freelance – unless you form a business partnership – often means working solo.
To counteract feelings of isolation and loneliness, you could consider a local co-working space.
Full-timers will always be limited to a certain amount of travel every year by their holiday allowance (unless they’re one of the lucky few working in an office with unlimited leave), but those who choose to leave their job and embrace the freelance lifestyle aren’t bound by any such rules.
In fact, the prevalence of online work and worldwide WiFi means work can be accomplished just about anywhere – take your laptop with you and you can be doing client work by the pool with ease.
Am I self-motivated enough?
When you’re a freelancer, nobody else is responsible for your success. There isn’t any guidance, mentoring, or coaching from a superior and you certainly don’t receive any encouragement from teammates. If you have a bad day, you only have yourself to blame, and that can be a lot of responsibility to take on both emotionally and mentally.
You need to be able to motivate yourself – whether that’s forcing yourself out of bed at 7am every day (even though you know you could get away with staying there until 10am) or keeping yourself going even when things get tough.
You’ll need to push yourself out of your comfort zone to get new clients, so whether you hate speaking on the telephone or wearing a suit to a pitch, you’ll have to keep making yourself plug away at your business because you’re the single driving force that keeps it all going.
One of the leading studies on startups in the last 25 years was conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
They found 14 traits of successful entrepreneurs:
- Drive / energy
- High initiative / personal responsibility
- Internal locus of control (the belief that people’s behaviour determines what happens to them and that they’re in control of their own behaviour)
- Tolerance of ambiguity (the ability to keep an open mind while receiving contradictory or unexpected evidence)
- Low fear of failure
- Moderate risk-taking
- Long-term involvement
- Money as a measure, not merely an end
- Use of feedback
- Continuous pragmatic problem-solving
- Use of resources
- Self-imposed standards
- Clear goal-setting
They accepted that ticking all 14 boxes was a tall order, which is why he said that strengths in some areas could compensate for weaknesses in others. Count up how many you’ve got – is the number you end up with high enough?
Can I afford to become self-employed?
The startup costs of launching your own business can vary greatly depending on what type of industry you’re in. For example, if you were looking to start a freelance photography business, your upfront costs for the latest equipment may be higher than that of say, an editor or journalist.
Money will feel tight at times and when you’re starting out, you’ll feel stressed about it. That’s totally normal, and it’s fine as long as you know how to deal with the stress.
It’s worth remembering that when you set your day rate or hourly rate, you’ll need to factor in that as a freelancer you don’t get paid for days when you’re sick or on holiday. Remember to calculate for weekends, bank holidays, and other times where you won’t be earning any money.
One of the big financial stories in 2018 was the news that UK wage growth had slumped to its lowest rate in six months, these figures don’t really cover the self-employed though as it can be hard to measure trends in self-employed
Using a work hours calculator can help you to understand how much you get paid in your current employed role for each hour of your time, versus what you would need to average your earnings out as to go fully freelance. But all that matters is what rate you can charge and how often you’ll have work. Because of this, freelancing is still a big financial risk because there’s no guaranteed income, holiday pay, or sick pay.
Some months might be more flush than others, and in your months where you’re not earning much, will you be okay with that? We recommend having some savings in the bank before going freelance, so in the leaner months you’re able to keep yourself afloat by paying bills, rent, etc.
Am I properly prepared to become self-employed?
There’s no point leaving a full-time job when you’ve only got a month’s worth of freelancing in the calendar.
Consider what freelance work you have secured and how long it’s likely to go on for. Along with that, you need to figure out how you’re going to find more work. Get as much lined up as you possibly can.
Also, think about any future commitments or events that might be coming up in the not-so-distant future. Are you sure you’ll still be able to afford that holiday in six months’ time if you quit your office job now? Is your boiler about to pack in and need replacing?
Is Now The Right Time?
Lots of skilled professionals who dream of a freelance lifestyle tell themselves they’ll leave their job and start a business when the time is right – but speak to any seasoned business owner and you’ll discover the right time never comes along.
Rather than waiting for the perfect moment, look for a moment that’s good enough. The chance to dive right into a big freelance contract, or moving to a part-time role with your current employer, giving you some free time to build up your business.
So, if you’re brimming with enthusiasm and entrepreneurial zeal, why not just go for it? Print off that resignation letter, give it to your boss and join the growing ranks of high-earning, mobile, happy, healthy freelancers who have left their nine-to-five jobs behind.