Being your own boss, only doing work you really want to do, making your own schedule, and being free from the constraints of a creativity-draining cubicle -- these are the things freelancing dreams are made of. Certainly, there are some great perks to working freelance. Who wouldn't rather work from where they want, when they want, instead of punching a clock every day? But is freelancing for everyone?
There are some people who thrive in an office environment. For the rest of us, freelancing looks like an attractive proposition. Some people are better suited to freelancing than others.
Here are eight ways to tell if you're ready for the freelancing life.
You're organized and focused
Of course you need to be organized and focused, regardless of whether you freelance or work for someone else. But the organization and focus of freelancing is unique because it's internally driven. You won't receive direction from your boss on what to prioritize or even a kick in the pants when you need it. Joanne Cleaver, career expert and author of the book "The Career Lattice," explains, "You have to know what's important and what's just urgent. It is imperative to break down big projects to incremental milestones so that you are always making progress. You can't control your clients, but you can respond according to the actual importance of their inquiries, not to just the emotional urgency (read: panic)."
You're willing to get, or already have, basic business skills
Cleaver suggests freelancers get some basic business skills. You'll need to understand tax rules for the self employed, which includes knowing your tax rate and when to pay your quarterly taxes. You'll need to know how you want to set up your business -- will you receive 1099 forms from your clients at the end of the year? There are ways the self-employed can minimize their tax liability via deductions, but you'll need to understand just how to do this. You will need a reliable system for billing clients for work you've done and be able to follow up if you're not paid at the agreed-upon time. Because freelance wages can vary, you'll also need the ability to manage your finances to account for busy months and slow months. You should also have the ability to get your own health insurance.
You understand the importance of your personal brand
Eventually, the work may come to you, but at least initially, you may need to put yourself out there to snag some freelance gigs. The best way to put yourself out there, without a doubt, is to engage in social media and do it frequently. If you're not already, you'll need to become familiar with Twitter and other social media tools so you can promote yourself and your work.
You are self motivated
It's great to be able to go out and find jobs and clients, but then you've got to be able to sit down and do the work. You also need to be able to ignore the multitude of distractions that will come your way as a freelancer. If your job requires you to be online, for example, you'll need to be able to resist YouTube, Facebook and other Internet distractions. Working from home can also be rife with home distractions (the dog needs walking, the laundry needs doing, etc.), so you need to be able to resist those as well.
You have a place and the ability to create a professional work environment
Having a healthy work-life balance applies to freelancers as well. Successful freelancers are able to keep boundaries between work and home. Just as you need to have the self motivation to get the work done, you need to have the control to be able to shut work down. You should have a place conducive to getting work done, whether it be in a home office, a space you rent or the corner coffee shop. It helps being able to physically remove yourself from your work environment when you're done working.
Be a great communicator
Keep good lines of communication with your clients. Email is great for doing this, but don't be afraid to pick up the phone to speak to clients in p
kerson. Cleaver says it's also important to invest in relationships and keep in contact with former clients. "I've gotten two calls from former clients who have moved on to new jobs and who want immediate proposals for big projects from me," She says. "It costs nothing to stay in touch, and you never know when a yesterday's happy client turns into today's new opportunity."
Disregard freelance myths
Don't work in your pajamas. Get up, get dressed, and get to work. Cleaver also cautions against buying into the myth that you work for yourself as a freelancer. "When you go freelance, you trade one boss for a bunch of bosses. They're called clients," she says. "You don't work for yourself, so don't think you do. That's not to say your clients own you. You must manage them. But you also work for them."
Freelance can offer the best of all working worlds to those who are suited to it. Even if you may not quite be ready to strike out on your own, developing the attributes that make a good freelancer may give you the confidence you need to eventually embark on a freelance career.
Kristin Marino writes about education and careers for several websites, including OnlineDegrees.com.