By Susan Long
“Going freelance.” Two words that promise untold freedom… and unforeseen stress. You may dream of life as a freelancer but, before you take the plunge, take a few minutes to consider the reality with these questions:
Can I afford this?
Do you have enough money to cover your start-up costs? Hardware, software, stationery, communications, furniture and other equipment? You do? Great. Now, is there enough left over to see you through the first few months while you build your client base? You might start with a bang, but clients dislike paying bills as much as the rest of us and it might take a while before your cash flow reaches acceptable levels.
On the subject of finance, how’s your mortgage? If you’re thinking of buying a home, switching financial institutions or refinancing your existing mortgage, do it now while you have a regular income and a conventional work history. Most financial institutions won’t consider mortgage applications if you’re self-employed without at least two years of financial documentation. Some institutions do offer low-doc mortgages but they generally charge a higher interest rate.
What will I miss?
Consider what you’ll miss when you leave your current job. Will you miss gossiping around the proverbial water cooler? Friday drinks? Bouncing ideas off colleagues? How about the IT guy who fixes your pesky computer problems? How are you admin, marketing, accounting and business management skills – are they up to the job of running a small business? Compile a list of all the things you’ll miss about your workplace. Will it be possible to recreate these things to some extent, in your freelance work environment?
Do I have enough self-discipline?
We all have different levels of motivation. Are you confident in your ability to get out of bed and do whatever it takes to earn a living on a daily basis? Or, without boss-imposed deadlines, do you think you’ll be too easily lured by daytime TV or long lunches with friends?
How’s my portfolio looking?
You’ll probably need a portfolio of your work to interest potential clients. Is your portfolio ready to dazzle? If you’re not sure, talk to potential clients, if you can, to gauge their opinions and expectations. Browse freelancing websites like www.elance.com or www. guru.com etc and look at the portfolios of those who are successful in your field. If your current boss and colleagues are aware of your plans, ask them for feedback. Once your portfolio is irresistible, map out your marketing strategies. Will you have your own website? Will you use freelance job websites? Or, will you simply do a letterbox drop? Will you talk to clients you already work for in your existing job, or will this contravene your current employment contract?
Does my new work environment work for clients?
Make sure your new work environment is conducive to taking care of business. Working on a laptop in bed sounds delicious but probably not ideal if you need to meet clients. Your sunroom may look like an ideal office space, but not if there’s a day care centre next door. If working at home is not practical, can you afford to rent premises? Will the landlord be happy to rent premises to someone who’s just started a freelance career?
All are important things to consider, but if you can overcome the problems and land on your feet, the dream of making money while in your pajamas could just become the reality!
Susan Long is a freelance marketing consultant and writer. See some of her work at Rent To Buy.