Questions to Ask Yourself Before Becoming a Freelancer


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?



  1. shaikh

    I am working as a freelancer from last 2 years and i enjoying it very much. And i think this questions will be really helpful to all those who want to work as a freelancer.

  2. Zhanet

    I started part time and gradually built my client base up over time
    When redundancy came along I was just about ready to take the plunge

  3. Interesting article, but there’s really so much more to consider than just what’s covered here. There are practical things like how do you pay the bills while you’re getting yourself established – something which make take many years and several low-paid jobs.

    Also, how good are you at making connections and playing the ‘who you know’ game. It’s no secret that knowing the right people can lead from one big job to the next. Are you going to try to freelance in every market, or concentrate on a specific one. You talk about honing in and advertising your particular skill-set, but as a freelancer if you do a job for, say, a local restaurant, they might pass your name around in those circles and before you know it you work predominately for the eatery market sector.

    Furthermore, do you aim to be a local freelancer in which case your location is important, or do you want to go national, or even global? The latter is by definition considerably more difficult to pitch to, and you have to be damned good at what you do, and better at telling people about it, too.

    As a local freelancer who’s just really getting into the freelancing side of web development, having worked for some big clients, worked for an agency and am currently studying for a degree, it’s a difficult thing getting new clients and drumming up new business – especially at prices that are feasible for both parties, but I have a part-time job to pay the bills, so any freelance work is just a bonus for me. It’s also making me look ever stronger on my CV, such that now, applying for graduate jobs, I already have the experience that companies yearn for.

    Overall though, I wont lie, luck and confidence have been a massive part of me getting any work at all. Getting that first job was the hardest, and that turned out to be a nightmare, with a non-paying client. After that catastrophe, however, things have just been good for me – I popped into my local Indian restaurant and hey-ho, got a job just because I happened to mention what I do for a living.

    So, my best advice to anyone who wants to go freelance – keep hold of your jobs or any income you have while you work part-time on freelancing. It’s a long, hard road that needs a lot of time dedicated to it, and you’ve got to be evangelical in your approach – a simple website just wont cut it. Get out locally, get your name out, and then work up from there.

    Just my two cents =]

  4. Vlad

    Exactly what i am looking for. I was not able to decide that for 6months now. i still have some time to become one of you. Thanks for great post.

  5. Lindsay Gattis

    Very important questions to ask before becoming a freelancer. Excellent post.

    In my opinion, another one to ask would be “How do you feel about forging your own path?” Or another way of putting it is “How flexible are you?” . In my experience I have had many situations where what I was “taught” to do just didn’t apply. Just because someone did it one way and was successful DOES NOT mean that you will have the same success. Nor does it mean that it was the best way. As freelancers, sometimes you really have to get creative and figure out a different way to do something. How comfortable do you feel doing that?


  6. Stan

    I really enjoy this post! I like to work alone, that’s not a problem to me, but sometimes, when I need some help is a little boring

  7. Dan

    Great post!
    Personally I find I do better work when I have people around it, it’s always good to have others around you to bounce ideas off of. I don’t think I’ll leave employment for the live of a freelancer any time soon, I love my job, can’t beat a bit of job security either!

  8. Eduardo Murillo

    Really good article. I’ve been Freelancing since 2009, which has ended up becoming more of a general web design business as people have sort me to create their websites rather than other web agencies outsourcing me for work.
    One of the mentally draining parts of freelancing is the management side. When you have a lot of clients you could end up spending a lot of time replying to emails that you don’t get paid for. Another important factor to take into consideration is waiting for Invoices to be Paid. When you’re in charge of your invoices its then you notice that some clients take weeks, maybe months, or even never end up paying you. It happens to almost every service based business.

  9. Chris

    Thanks for the thoughtful points! I think a really good followup article would be “Questions to ask yourself before turning your freelancing career into a new business startup” or something along those lines. Thanks again!

  10. Mike

    I am involved in IM but I can call it freelancing as well because I am working from my home office but I have found it better for me.
    The only thing I have noticed is that I can’t just stop working unless the project is finished. I don’t limit my working hours and I can work 14-16 hours straight without moving. This is something I wouldn’t on my 9to5 job.

  11. Carren

    i am also thinking to quit my job n start freelancing.. i think freelancing can be done from home also…

  12. Adam

    The writer has discussed about in important topics. Freelancing is getting popularity more and more. So it is essential to know the details of freelancing for the freelancer.

  13. Marcus Lewis

    Great questions to ask yourself before jumping in the freelance world. I’ve been freelancing since 2008 and re-asked myself these questions and believe I’ve still made the right choice. I love working for myself, the motivation is not a problem in staying active in the field and financially I’ve been doing fairly well.

    I get offers every now and again for job opening and in office contract work, but I can’t escape from working at home.

    Great article and essential questions! Thanks