That’s what I hear from folks on the outside looking in. Freelancing looks so…free. And it’s part of the new gig economy. How hip! How with it!
There are definite advantages to this way of working. I like myself as a boss way better than any other boss I’ve had. And I do get to set my hours…kinda. I don’t work in my PJs, but I don’t dress up either. If you’re considering going it alone – whether as a consultant, contract worker or freelancer – do a self-assessment first to see if you have these essential abilities.
- Tolerance for uncertainty When you’re on your own, there’s only certainty on the expense side. That's always there. (And always growing for some reason.) But income is another story. Some months may be great while others suck. And it always takes longer to get going than you thought. I've heard there are some lucky souls who walk out of a corporate job right into a lucrative freelance gig. I think it's an urban legend. What I've seen is that most folks in the freelance community have to work hard (continuously) to find paying work. Which is a neat segue into my next topic.
- Persistence It may take a while to build up a clientele and an income. And new business development is an ongoing activity. When you’re working on your own, you’ll have to adopt the slogan “Never give up. Never surrender.” Call that prospective client one more time. Cultivate existing relationships. Propose new projects.
- Self-discipline Successful freelancers are self-starters. They have to be. There’s no supervisor looking over your shoulder. There’s no boss setting work hours. It’s just you and your clients’ expectations. Their deadlines are yours, so you may work nights and weekends. (This is what makes the myth of setting your own hours mythical.) It’s up to you to understand the task, deliver on time and deliver good work that meets client expectation and your standards.
- Self-confidence Selling will be an important part of your job as a freelancer. Get comfortable with it. Whatever skill or expertise you’re offering, you’ll have to convince prospects you can do what they need done. You’ll need a certain amount of confidence (not cockiness) to pull this off. Plus, belief in yourself will help you in the other areas I’ve listed.
- Able to work alone You may spend significant amounts of time working by yourself without the usual buzz of co-workers around you. Even when you work on-site your status an independent worker may set you apart from others. Are you OK with this?