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Are you made for freelancing?

April 29th, 2009

It’s been almost two years since I’ve made the leap from the employee field to become a full time freelancer. This wasn’t something planned, it just happened, and i have to say it was (and still is) pretty exciting and challenging. Of course, there are ups and downs, there are moments when I work a few hours a day (very rare for the past 6-8 months) and there are days when I end up working 10-12 hours – best example is this blog, started almost two months ago, wrote first post more than a month ago and since then, I had no time to write another article.

For the last two years most of my friends kept telling me how cool it has to be a freelancer and decide when to work and what to work on, and how nice it was not to have a boss. On the other hand, others were trying to persuade me to get employed again, not to become isolated and too stressed by not having a steady salary. Well, as you probably know by now, there are pros and cons for each way of working, you just have to decide which ones you prefer, which ones suit you better. For example, I know people who are totally satisfied with their current job and don’t even think of starting a freelance career or working on their own company. At the same time, I’ve met a lot of people that don’t want to get back as employees and enjoy a happy freelance life – in both cases, the reasons vary from person to person.

So, the question is “Are you made for freelancing?” – should you even consider this change? I’ve tried compiling a few lists of benefits, possible problems and minimal set of must have’s “skills” (although skills is not the best word). Hopefully, these might help you decide if it’s better to keep your current job or start on a new path.

Benefits for being a freelancer/independent contractor/consultant

  • You set your own working hours
  • You choose the work you do
  • You can work from anywhere
  • You have unlimited earning potential
  • You can take time off at any point
  • You can spend more time with your family and friends or dedicate time to other projects

The challenges while being self-employed

  • Not getting paid or facing financial problems
  • Having difficulty finding work
  • Having too much work at the same time or saying “No” to potential clients
  • Feeling isolated
  • Facing problems and finding solution on your own
  • Much more responsibilities
  • Spending a lot of the working time to promote yourself or your work
  • Spending a lot of the working time get organized and optimize processes
  • Facing burnout

Benefits for being an employee

  • Stability & security – steady paychecks, well defined working hours and vacation days
  • Limited responsibility
  • Enjoying time with colleagues, team buildings
  • “Motivational packages” – phone/car/laptop
  • Paid trainings

Remember, these are just some aspects and most of them could easily go from being an advantage to being a problem – I think nothing is ever white or black, things are usually in shades of gray, so there are risks associated with all benefits. However, there are tons of resources to read and stay updated, a lot of web sites and services that can help freelancers find new projects and clients, optimize and simplify their day to day work, make new friends, socialize and expand their network, and much more. So don’t worry, you’re not really on your own. In fact, there are millions of freelancers all over the world, working as designers, developers, writers, marketeers, bloggers, translators, composers…

However, I’d like to point out that you must have some of the following skills (if not all of them), otherwise being self employed or having your own company is really not for you.

Must-have’s

  • Drive
  • Passion for what you do
  • Don’t mind the hard work
  • Self disciplined
  • Practicality and pragmatism
  • Great communication skills and networking abilities
  • Thirst for knowledge
  • Time management skills
  • Support from family and friends
  • Courage and boldness
  • Patience

I think anyone can easily add another 10 items to each list, but I guess these gave you a rough idea of how things go. Like I said, there a lot of articles on this subject, but I really recommend reading Alyssa Gregory’s articles on sitepoint.com and FreelanceSwitch.com for great articles on freelancing. You might also be interested in some <a href="http://rockablepress click here to find out more.com/minibooks/freelance-statistics-report/” onclick=”_gaq.push([‘_trackEvent’, ‘outbound-article’, ‘http://rockablepress.com/minibooks/freelance-statistics-report/’, ‘freelance statistics’]);” >freelance statistics.

I’m really interested in finding your opinions on this subject, so please leave a comment – we can all benefit from others experience.

  1. April 29th, 2009 at 16:49 | #1

    Thanks for the comment Marius. You’re right about most of the things, although I have to say I really met people who didn’t even want to consider starting on theor own – mainly, because they would loose the comfort a job is offering. And I’m talking about big companies, not really facing the crisis yet.

    Incompetents or poorly trained persons exist everywhere, in every country, as freelancers or employees. Of course, as a freelancer, making money in this situation is much more difficult, but not impossible.

    As for the benefits of being employed,I also agree with you – the only thing I miss from my past jobs is the human interaction, jokes, serious talks and everything in between.

  2. April 29th, 2009 at 16:32 | #2

    As you know, I’ve been a ‘full-time’ freelancer for about 4 years. Every profession and every individual is different, and will experiment different problems and benefits. Still ‘freelancing’ is not a profession but just a way to get out of the 9to5 cycle and allows you to take control on your live and profession. You can do whatever you want to do: work more and make more money, have more time for your family, dedicate to other projects or startups, or even turn it into a real business.

    I think that deep down everyone would like to be a freelancer or work for himself. Though, not everyone is doing it because they are afraid.
    Looking in your list of benefits for an employee (very small and I can’t think of other ones):
    > Stability & security – steady paychecks, well defined working hours and vacation days
    – this doesn’t seem to be true anymore in these times; you are even more secure as a well positioned freelancer with plenty of contacts and projects that an employee that can lose its job very fast these days.
    > Limited responsibility
    > “Motivational packages” – phone/car/laptop
    > Paid trainings
    don’t care 😉
    > Enjoying time with colleagues, team buildings
    – now this is the only true advantage of being employee in my opinion. In my experience isolation is the biggest downside of freelancing.

    My conclusion of this rambling is that everybody could benefit from being a freelancer but not everyone can do it for various reasons:
    – they are afraid of not having a stable income (even if you tell them they can make 10times more, there are people that prefer to have that little stable incoming without doing much).
    – they are not very good professionally at what they do. You need to be good in what you are doing, especially if you are competing with thousands of freelancers from all over the world. You need to always learn and be on top on your profession if not you will fail. The same should apply for an employee, but this doesn’t happen like that and incompetents are tolerated in companies; eventually they will fail there also but only after a longer time.
    – the type of profession they do doesn’t fit very well in a remote or freelancing type of environment.

    Finally I would like to congratulate you for doing this, as very few do it (at least in our country). You should be proud of being a freelancer and try to correct all the downsides of this as you will encounter along the way.

    Cheers,
    – Marius –

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