So you want to go freelance?
Ah, freelancers have the life don’t they? They only work the hours they want to, don’t have to pay taxes, and they don’t have to put up with crappy office politics. Actually – speaking as a freelancer- that’s nearly true. Except for the taxes. They do have to be paid. However, before you type up your resignation and dash out to hang up your freelance shingle, do consider the following.
Get your accounts computerised: It is so much easier to invoice, track receipts, see what profit you are making and sort out your taxes when you have been keeping up to date with a computerised accounts package. Look into Sage or Quickbooks or you could look at an Irish solution – SortMyBooks both of which have basic inexpensive versions. Track your money carefully as you will now be facing feast and famine and you need to be able to cope with both.
Spend as much time mastering your craft as marketing: yes, I know we are all constantly told the importance of marketing and there are many resources out there for that. But the best and easiest way to get business is referrals and that comes through doing a good job – a mixture of craftsmanship, courtesy and reliability. And ask people to refer you as well. Sometimes people don’t refer you simply because they don’t know.
Build alliances with other people in your industry: Some of the best work I have ever gotten has come through other trainers. E.g. you can’t do a piece of work but you can recommend someone who can and vice versa. People in your industry understand the challenges you face and are far more willing to help than you might think. Don’t forget to return the favour. I stopped referring work to people who did not thank me for work I sent to them. Equally I now have strong friendships with other trainers.
Can you cope with uncertainty? Freelance works ebbs and flows so that work you thought was a sure thing will be postponed or cancelled. Other work will appear from somewhere else – often in a surprising way. If you are someone who likes to know exactly how much you will be working and earning over a month – freelancing is probably not for you.
You will probably not make enough to live on in the 1st 12-18 months: I’m sure someone will contradict me but you will probably need to have savings or a supportive spouse if you just go cold turkey into freelancing. On the other hand you could build up what Pam Slim of Escape from Cubicle Nation calls a side hustle before you go completely freelance – that makes it much more doable.
Do subcontracting but also keep an eye on the direct work: When you start out freelancing it’s very easy just to take the subcontracted work ( you just show up and do it) but don’t forget that you will probably be receiving about a third of what the customer is paying and YOU get a lot of the flak when things go wrong – as they will from time to time. So even from the beginning, work towards getting some direct gigs with clients – the pay is better and it’s probably the same work.
It’s a great life – if it’s for you: I’ve been freelance since 1997 and I love it. It means I get valued for what I bring to the table (not on how long I have been in an organisation), I get to work with wonderful people and politely avoid the obnoxious gits. I have gotten to spend more time with my family than I would have otherwise and I am learning all the time.
Anne Walsh MCT.
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