A job for life is out. The on-demand economy is in. It’s time you jumped on board—but look before you leap.
Leaving a full-time job behind and going freelance is one of the defining characteristics of the current generation of workers. Around the world, people are abandoning the nine-to-five in droves. A report from Freelancers Union predicted a full 50 percent of the American workforce will be freelance by 2020 and the Netherlands has almost doubled its freelance population in the last decade.
It’s Not All-Or-Nothing
Employers are getting on board with the flexible working trend and many are now perfectly happy for employees to drop down to part-time or work different hours to accommodate their freelancing. This is great news, as it can remove a lot of the uncertainty of starting up a freelance business. In years past, it was sink or swim—quit your job to start your business with no financial buffer. Now, with flexible working a possibility for most workers, you’ll have a life vest.
If you’re toying with the idea of going freelance, instead of going the all-or-nothing route, try going down to four days a week at your nine-to-five. If you can build your business up so that it occupies more than a day of your time, then you’re on the right track.
Fill Your Client Pool
Experienced freelancers will tell you that the best way to maintain a steady stream of work is to use every avenue available to find new clients.
Get your portfolio up on Flickr or Vimeo and set up your own website—better yet, make sure your ImageBrief account is up to date and looking great—so people can come to you direct. Go to local networking events to shake hands and give out business cards. Register yourself on some good freelance job sites. Be active on social channels like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, as ways to share your work with the world and reach out to new customers.
Over time you might find one channel works better than the others, so move your focus there. Potential customers are everywhere, you just need to find the right place to make contact with them.
Manage Your Cash Carefully
Like it or not, managing your money is a vital part of running a successful business. Fail to take care of your bookkeeping and you could find yourself in a mess at the end of the tax year, with huge bills to pay for an accountant and the tax you owe.
Proper financial management is a question of doing a little, often. Set aside half an hour a week to record your expenses, send your invoices and chase any outstanding payments. Stay on top of everything and you’ll know exactly what tax you owe, and won’t have to rush to file.
Most people who make the jump into freelancing do so to take advantage of a better work-life balance. No more rigid working hours, no more boss breathing down their neck, and more control over when, where, and how they work.
This often gets forgotten in the excitement of starting a new business and entrepreneurial burnout afflicts a high percentage of those who go it alone. If you find you never have any time for yourself, or your partner complains they never see you, it might be time to re-examine your workload.
Experiment with different working patterns. Many parents work during the day and late at night so they have time to spend with their children in the afternoon and early evening. If you’re a chronic early-riser use that morning energy to get your emails and paperwork done, then have breakfast with your family.
If you simply have too much on your plate, consider subcontracting some of it out. You’ll keep your clients happy and you’ll be helping a fellow freelancer in the process.
Remember To Enjoy Yourself
A recent study by IPSE in the UK found that almost 90 percent of freelancers say they are very satisfied with the way they work, and freelancers around the world routinely score higher in happiness surveys than their full-time counterparts.
But all the extra work—the bookkeeping, the networking, the weird hours, the cashflow forecasting—is for nothing if you don’t remember to enjoy the freedoms that come with freelancing. Something as simple as taking an impromptu afternoon off to go to the beach can be great for the soul, and you’ll return to work bursting with energy.