Going freelance nowadays is a path many designers and developers take, not only because of job vacancies being on the low side, but also because there are some clear advantages to it. While working for a company is more secure and organized, going freelance is something most of us have thought about at least once. Working by yourself means you need some special skills, such as being able to work alone, to respect schedules and deadlines and to be able to market yourself better than the others. None of these is easy to do and not being able to follow some specific rules will ruin your freelance career. Therefore before going freelance, take a look at the following questions and try to ask yourself if this is indeed the right path for you to follow.
1. How do you feel about working alone?
Freelancing can get pretty boring sometimes and working alone is not something everybody can do. If you find enjoyment in working with people in a group, then freelancing might be something to avoid. You will probably get lonely and might want to have someone to chat with and this is not likely to happen if you freelance – don’t forget there is a schedule to follow and a deadline to keep.
Moreover, there are lots of designers and developers who like to ask for feedback or ask people around for help, this is something you should consider as well.
On the other hand, working alone has some clear advantages. If you like to work in a peaceful and quiet environment then working freelance in your own office might suit you better than a nine to five company job. Some of us really need to concentrate when we work and therefore prefer to work alone.
Anyway, regardless of which way you like to work, it is always a good idea to have some backup places to go and work from if you need. As a busy freelancer your social life might suffer and being near people while working might even increase your results. Bookstores, libraries or any place like Starbucks or McDonald’s are sometimes good for your workflow.
2. How about motivation?
OK then, you like working alone and can’t wait to start, but are you motivated enough to keep this up when it becomes your everyday life? Otherwise freelancing might not be for you either. Think of all the moments when you will need to step it up a notch without anyone pushing you. Can you push yourself?
Source: somewhere on the internet
Can you get up in the morning, eat and start working immediately instead of connecting the yoke and flying that Boeing from Amsterdam’s Schiphol to Charles de Gaulle in Paris? Just think this is only one of the few moments when you will need to go make some money instead of having fun. Deadlines are always tight and you always need to meet them in time, otherwise you will be considered unreliable and will end up with no clients and without clients you end up with no money.
3. Are you pleased with just enough money?
Freelancing for extra money is a bit different from freelancing for a living. Unlike what everyone thinks, freelancing does not fill your bank account too much. Sure, you control the amount of money you charge, and to some extent the amount of money you make, but if you want lots of money at the end of the month, you will have to work a lot, because money doesn’t just fall from trees on the internet – as a matter of fact, there are not even trees on the internet. In the beginning you might not even make enough, because nobody knows you and you need a portfolio to land big jobs (sure, if you have a portfolio already, lucky you, but not everyone who starts freelancing has one).
The good part is that you have full control of your money. You decide if you charge per hour, per project or if you work for free just because you want to. You also decide how much you charge for maintenance of a previous project or for a client that has been with you for five years. This is all in your hands – and you need to be able to manage your money wisely. If you make a fortune this month, the following three could be dry.
4. Will you go abroad?
Working freelance allows people to collaborate with individuals or companies from all over the world. This is a huge opportunity for anybody who knows a foreign language (English should be enough though) and is willing to go abroad and look for work – not necessarily going there physically, but who knows, it might land you that dream job of yours.
Photo by fraserd
Thinking of this beforehand is important because you need to market yourself in such a way that clients from China, India, Croatia or Greece will all be interested in your services – or only some of them, depends who are you interested in. Working with local clients might not be so difficult, especially if you have lived somewhere for a long time and know the surroundings and the culture, but going abroad is definitely a challenge and you need strong personal skills for it. When the internet is full of scammers, only a strong portfolio and personality will convince someone abroad to hire you for big bucks.
If you market yourself to the local clients, then you will also rely on some other channels than internet. If you want to go abroad, internet is the only way to become known and get some work.
5. How does your portfolio look?
It had better be good, otherwise everybody will skip it. Having a powerful internet presence is the only way you can make a name for yourself out there, with so much competition. Before going and marketing yourself, make sure your portfolio looks at least decent. Update the content, keep the latest contact information and make sure everybody gets what it is you offer. Your online portfolio is the place everything starts from, so make sure that when users look at it, they imagine and wish to hire you.
6. What are you good at?
This is a question you should ask yourself regardless of the career you choose and it is of utmost importance when freelancing because you have to market yourself in a specific way. In a company, once you get hired, you don’t need to advertise you or your services, but when you are a freelancer you need to do this all the time. Find out what it is you are good at and make sure people know it only by looking at your work.
It is also important to have general knowledge, but to specialize in something is crucial. Don’t market yourself as a generalist (and don’t be one either). Sure, it is good to know a bit of everything, but have strong knowledge of one or two things and call yourself an expert in those fields.
7. Where is your office going to be?
This is a bit different from the first question although it is closely related. If you like to work alone, then home might be a good choice, otherwise you might even need to rent an office in order to be around people, or maybe even work in a public place (although I do not recommend this third choice).
Photo by barunpatro
There are advantages and disadvantages to each of them and even if working from home seems the best one, it is really not. It is always difficult to stay focused on work and not start doing laundry, mop your floor or watch TV. In an office space you won’t have these problems, so this is the advantage of a more professional working space. However, if working from an office, talking too much with your colleagues will have the same effect and you will not be able to meet your deadlines. It is smart to find a balance between working alone and around other people and finding the right working space for you.
You can find some tips for your home office here.
8. Do you have future plans?
And if you do, where do you see yourself in five years? Will you be a freelancer forever or do you just want to do it now until you will be able to find an agency job? Do you wish to hire some more employees to work with you and turn your freelance hobby into a professional small company? Do you wish to work your way up in the freelance world and become well-known all over the internet?
You need to consider all these things; not only for the sake of having something to think about, but also because you need to run your business accordingly. Moreover, you don’t want to freelance for life if you don’t enjoy it too much. On the other hand, if you really like to be a freelancer, then why search for a more stable, agency job for the moment?
9. Should you become one of us?
Well, if you went through all the questions above and still think this is for you, then this is the final test. Do you really think freelancing is for you? Is it something you are truly passionate about? Are you ready for all the challenges, for getting clients on your own, be maybe close to starving in some bad months, take vacations rarely because you don’t have time for it and so on? Are you certain freelancing is the way you want to go? Because if your answer is still YES, then I am sure you will enjoy a lot of success and will avoid failure at all costs, only because this challenging career seems to suit you better than many others.
Do you think there is something else to consider when starting a freelance career? How was it when you started, what was the most challenging thing? How did you manage to go through with it?
Christian Vasile is an enthuziastic Romanian web designer currently living in Denmark. He is passionate for the industry and writes about design, usability, coding and freelancing and is a regular publisher here at 1WD. You can follow him on Twitter at @christianvasile or visit his web portfolio by clicking on the link above.