Is a freelancing career really right for you? Make sure before you take the leap!
For many professionals, becoming independent and being your own boss is a dream. Developing your own successful business practice gives you a certain sense of security — no one can fire you, no one to answer to, and things are done your way. This is the ultimate desire of a large segment of professionals, especially amongst the millennial generation. In fact, the McKinsey Research on Independent work revealed that 70 percent of independent workers chose to become free agents. The question, though, becomes this: How many of them actually succeed at having a solid professional freelance career?
Do you have what it takes to become an independent freelancer? If this is something you're interested in, here are some questions that you need to ask yourself before taking the leap towards a freelancing career.
Do you have the financial support to launch your freelance career?
Becoming a freelancer rarely begins with an already-established flow of revenue. Sometimes you are lucky and you are in the situation of moving from your full-time job to a freelancer position, bringing with you a solid customer relationship. But most likely, you will have to take the leap into freelancing with no certainty of where your next month's income is coming from. So, either start freelancing as a moonlighter (at night and on weekends) to get established or make sure you have the funds to support yourself for a few months. Financial support can come from your own savings, your family, or a bank credit line, but know that you will most likely need to finance yourself for three to six months until you reach the required income.
Have you explored sources for potential clients?
Becoming a freelancer is like starting your own business; it requires a business plan. You need to understand the market you are targeting and identify the potential customers and their profile. What is your value proposition that distinguishes you from the competition? How are you going to reach your potential market? How are you planning to sell your services? Do you have a marketing budget, or are you planning to make cold calls? Do you have a developed network to reach these potential customers? One way or another, marketing your skills on social media and freelance sites, sending emails, or calling requires a budget in dollars and time.
Have you projected your potential revenue?
Before launching your business, it will be wise to understand your potential revenue. At the end of the day, you are selling your time, and time is limited. So as part of building your freelance plan, you need to understand the rate at which your skills are sold in your market. You should project your revenues by estimating the number of hours you will need to work to reach your target. But this is not all: Don't forget to subtract the cost of operating a freelance business. You will require strong internet, a business phone, accounting software, an accountant or bookkeeper to file taxes, a computer, and a marketing budget. You might even want to consider renting a co-working space which, in addition to giving you a space to work, are a great place to network and get you out of the house. With that, does the bottom line still make financial sense to you?
Do you have the complementary soft skills to become a freelancer?
Once you have determined that there is a market for your technical skills, that you have the financial means to support yourself, and that your financial projections are acceptable, you must now ask yourself if you have the other additional skills required to make a successful career out of freelancing. A freelancer is another type of entrepreneur. You might not need to manage people, but you do need to be self-motivated. You must also be efficient with the limited time you have, have some sales skills to drum up business, and be able to negotiate your contracts. Negotiation skills are key as well; you will need to sharpen your negotiation skills to get the most value possible from each mandate on every new contract.
Freelancing is not for everyone, but it is certainly for many. Some figures in the recent McKinsey study show no fewer than 94 million people in Europe are currently engaged in independent work in one form or another, while an additional 50 million are estimated in the U.S. If you have decided to make the leap, just make sure you are willing to do what it takes to become a quasi-entrepreneur.
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