Working for yourself can be fulfilling and empowering, as long as you prepare yourself for the challenges that come along with being your own boss. Because while you have the liberty to control who you work with and when you work, freelancing is not always easier and less mentally taxing than your regular 9 to 5 corporate job.
Here are some things no one tells you about freelancing, things you should prepare yourself with based on mistakes new freelancers of the past have made at the start of their freelancing journeys:
Do not undersell yourself
Everyone wants to gain experience in a new job position before charging clients a higher fee but avoid working with low rates when you know the service you are providing is worth a much higher pay. Many times, freelancers will have years of specialised education and/or experience from past jobs that they won’t take into account when they start working for themselves. You are repurposing and building your skills, treating yourself as if you are a newbie in the industry is doing yourself a disservice. And even if you are relatively new, research the market standard and price your services accordingly.
Set boundaries early on
When you start freelancing, it is very important to define the scope of work and time with the clients in advance. This includes defining the services you are agreeing to provide the client and setting limits to what you are willing to do for the agreed upon budget.
Boundaries also include ones that allow you to maintain work-life balance. Working for yourself and not physically going into an office everyday could lead to overworking and eventual burnout. Try defining your work hours and separating your workspace and live space. Start small by using a different browser for work and personal use.
Formulate contracts before starting work with a client
Do not be so excited to get work that you skip the step of getting a contract in place. A contract which safeguards you in case your payments are withheld, or you are asked to do work outside your scope. Don’t be intimidated by the formality of a contract, most clients expect it and may take advantage of you without one.
Build an emergency business fund
Self-employment income can be inconsistent and unpredictable, aka the “feast or famine” effect; it often ebbs and flows. There could be so much work one moment and the next, you’re left wondering where all your clients went. This fluctuation can be difficult if you don’t have a financial cushion. Building an emergency business fund can help support you during slow spells, late payments, or clients ghosting you. Also consider payment structures such as 50% upfront and 50% paid when the work is complete, or if you have a bad feeling about a client (whether that be because they are completely new to you or because of how they conduct their business) asking for full payment before you do the work.
Getting clients as a new freelancer can be difficult. It is important to maintain a professional and personal network of mentors, supporters and clients (ones you have worked with in the past and potential ones for future jobs). Apart from networking it is also always a good idea to diversify and maintain a strong presence not just on professional platforms but social media platforms as well. The more eyes you have on you and the services you offer the better.