Have you noticed how much more common the concept of freelancing is today?
What used to be a term seemingly reserved for writers—reporters, columnists, copyeditors, etc.—has now transcended across nearly every industry.
(According to Merriam-Webster, the word “freelance” seems to have started in the early 1800s to describe a medieval soldier who would fight for the side willing to pay him the most. It was first mentioned in Ivanhoe, a novel by Sir Walter Scott.)
Especially in an increasingly digital world, the demand for developers, digital marketers, and tech whizzes has skyrocketed. Particularly when it comes to specialized needs, experts can find themselves in a position where they are being paid top dollar without having to make a full-time, on-site commitment.
Are you in a place in your career where going out on your own and “being your own boss” is something that feels right?
Whether you’ve been working on a side hustle for a while now, or are just ready to break out of the corporate mold, this post will help you take a rational approach to the debate going on inside your head.
The Rise of Freelancing
You don’t have to look very hard to find the reason why employing freelancers has taken off so quickly in recent years—it’s because of that increasingly digital world mentioned above.
Being in a society where communication is almost constant (so long as there is a dependable Internet connection, of course) means that the elements of a traditional office environment aren’t really required for most businesses anymore. Teams are much more agile, allowing for employees or partners to work remotely.
This has opened the door to allow companies to keep a leaner in-house team and source out different specialties. It still requires business owners to be financially cognizant though, since even though they may be providing less bonus, equity, or health benefits (at least in the U.S.), they may find that they are paying freelancers a higher hourly or project-based rate for overall less work.
The scale, however, seems to falling in the favor of freelance. According to Nasdaq, 43% of the American workforce will be freelance by 2020—just a year and a half away!
Benefits of Freelancing
The advantages of being able to utilize freelancers might be clear for the business owner, but you might be wondering: “What about the actual freelancer? Won’t they feel less job security?”
This is a tricky question to answer. On the one hand, yes, they might feel less job security. Without a set salary, bonus structure, or clearly defined work expectations, it could feel a little loosey-goosey.
But the sad truth is that there’s no job security anymore, even in a full-time role. Companies are downsizing, bankrupting, and changing direction every single day. So, doesn’t it make a bit more sense to already work in an environment where you potentially have multiple sources of income (aka, personal clients)?
Setting the debate of stability aside, there are plenty of other benefits of freelancing to consider—let’s explore two of them.
Ah, time, the most valuable currency in life. We all have a finite amount of it, and it never feels like enough.
The great thing about freelancing is that you have so much more freedom when it comes to your time. Of course, you still need to put in the work to get paid, but you can schedule your focused hours around your needs and wants.
Maybe you have young kids at home and want to spend less on childcare by taking advantage of working in the evenings. Maybe you’re a world traveler who is lucky enough to cram a year’s worth of work into nine months, giving yourself the summer to travel to new places.
Whatever the case, freelancing allows you the opportunity to build your work responsibilities around your personal calendar. There is no paid time off — which means you won’t get paid for time not spent working, but you also don’t have to ask human resources for approval to take a three-day weekend.
You can build up projects to work 50 hours a week or 15, whatever works for you and your life. You’re also likely not driving or taking the train into an office as a freelancer (or if you are, it’s not every day), thus saving you commuting time.
Sure, you have clients to answer to and expectations to uphold, but no more dealing with a demanding boss or being called into seven pointless team meetings throughout the day.
As a freelancer, you are usually hired to do a specific job, without all the other distractions, duties, and hierarchy headaches. You’re given a level of autonomy, allowing you to do what it is that you’re good at and avoid the rest.
In order to feel comfortable and empowered in this kind of situation, you need to feel confident in your abilities and skill set, which brings us to the title question: Are you ready to freelance?In order to feel comfortable and empowered as a freelancer, you need to feel confident in your abilities and skill set. Click To Tweet
Knowing When It’s Time
As mentioned above, freelancing makes sense when you are able to offer a precise expertise to a person or company. It’s great if you are a hard worker and fast learner, but unless you are able to provide a specialized service that they aren’t able to fulfill internally, then freelancing might not be the right route.
If you possess a particular knowledge base or skill (and to be honest, most people do!), then there are other factors to consider before making the switch, including money.
This is a very personal subject, and one that is completely different from person to person.
In order to understand if you’re ready to cut the corporate cord and enter into the world of freelancing, you must have a clear understanding of living expenses.
We can’t give you a ballpark number of what that look likes since it varies so much, but take into consideration housing, food, transit, health care, clothing, and entertainment costs, plus any debts or dependents.
More than likely, aim for a figure higher than your current full-time salary. Don’t forget the potential added expenses of self-employment taxes, insurance, resources, and supplies.
Investing in Yourself
Speaking of resources, there are a few that are likely critical to your success. As a freelancer, think of yourself as a “business of one.” Like any business, you need to proactively invest in tools that will positively affect your bottom line.
These will likely include:
- Reliable Internet/WiFi: Again, being enveloped in the digital world is great, so long as you can actually stay in it. Having a reliable source of connectivity is critical to every freelancer.
- Computer/work space: Like Internet, it’s pretty much a given that you’re going to need a modern desktop or laptop to carry out the work. Most people also need a dedicated desk or space—not everyone can be productive from the couch cushions.
- Software: Depending on your area of expertise, you might be required to purchase a specific design or software program for some clients.
There definitely is some beneficial software that is universal across industries for freelancers, particularly when it comes to time tracking.
If you ask any freelancer about the most difficult part of their situation, they are most likely to say time management (after the standard security conversation, of course, but we already went over that).
Being in control of your time is incredibly empowering, but you must be diligent, organized, and productive in order to be successful. That’s why investing in a tool like Timing is so valuable for a freelancer—it allows you to see exactly where you spend your time (meaning you can pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses, thus improving productivity), juggle multiple clients and projects without missing out on billable hours, and realize when it’s time to take on more work or scale back a bit.
The Bottom Line
Only you know when it’s truly the right time to take a deep dive into the freelancer pool—and to be honest, you may never feel 100% sure.
But if you are confident that you offer a coveted skill or service, have connections to network, map out a clear understanding of financial responsibilities, and realize that investing in tools and resources is the key to independent success, then chances are you’re ready jump in head first.
And, don’t worry; your friends here at Timing will be in the water to help keep you afloat!
Once you make the choice to jump, be sure to check out our previous post, Starting Out as a Freelancer? Here Are the 5 Steps You Need to Do Now, to help get you going.