Freelance work isn’t right for everyone. A successful freelancer is someone who knows how to be uncomfortable and how to live with some consistent uncertainties: it isn’t always clear where the next project is going to come from or who’s going to be signing your next paycheck, either. But a study from Nicolas Brown, an economics professor at Stanford University, suggests that people who work from home—currently 10% of the workforce—are actually more productive at home than in an office setting.
Though freelancing can be stressful and more time-consuming than you may realize at first, freelancing offers a lot of benefits: you can choose how, where, and with whom you do business, catering to your personal strengths and preferences. You can leave behind those nine-to-five hours and operate on your own schedule, and you have more options regarding how you want to conduct your business. But how do you know if freelancing is the right career, or career change, for you?
- You know how to sell your skills and abilities. You will need a healthy online presence to get your name into the right places. People need to know what you can do for them and why they should hire you—they want to see who you are. Develop social media profiles across all the applicable platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. No one will reach out to you if they don’t know who you are.
- Know your talents and limitations. It’s important that you know what kind of work you are willing to accept, what you can do, and how you want to work. Know what you can handle—and what you can’t. Set goals for yourself, realistic expectations, and keep to a schedule that is going to make you productive. What do you want out of the work? Know what makes you different from others in your field and what you’re willing to do to make your clients happy.
- You understand that you are both the worker and the boss. Freelancing isn’t always a lucrative business immediately. Laura Pennington, a freelance writer from Maryland, acknowledges that it took several years and a lot of relentlessly hard work before she became the truly successful freelancer she is today, and she wouldn’t be successful if she couldn’t balance her creative work with the business side of her freelancing. Manage your accounts and information smartly. Keep track of your deadlines, invoices, expenses, and your clients’ needs. If you keep track of everything, your business will be much more effective and run much more smoothly.
- You’re a great communicator. This means you work well with your clients. You listen to them and respond well to their suggestions and criticisms, within reason, and you do exactly what you tell them you’re going to do. Follow up with them, be open and honest, and ask for feedback. Clients are going to be walking billboards for your business if you treat them well, and that kind of exposure and positive conversation will do wonders for your business. Networking is an essential component of any business, standard or freelance, and building trust means building your name and, most importantly, earning revenue.
- Know that there is a market for what you want to do. Simply because you want to do something does not necessarily mean anyone is going to pay you for that service; you have to be in the business of doing something people need. Learn all you can about your chosen industry, talk to other freelancers, and talk to potential clients. You will be successful if you know what your client base wants and why you’re the right person for the project.
- This one is perhaps the most essential ingredient for happy freelancing: you love what you do. It will show in the work itself if your heart just isn’t in it.
So if you’re a confident worker with faith in your abilities, and you know there’s a market for your skills and talents, don’t be afraid to take the freelance plunge. If you’re comfortable being both the workforce and the boss and with the uncertainty of freelancing as an industry, freelancing might just be the smart move for your career.