Work is important. Now that is an understatement.
Your work is what gets you the bread and butter, and makes life easy for you. It is either the thing you want to do or it can make “the thing” possible for you. That is an interesting thought.
But let me sound a bit typical for a moment – the professionals these days are put through too much work pressure. And even if you are into a really high paying job, it brings a lot of stress that drains you out of all your energy, much like a vacuum cleaner sucking out the dirt off the carpet! Risks towards mental and physical health are too many. Then there’s the problem of time, which you can’t give to your family and friends, and to yourself.
It is becoming harder to enjoy life while devoting time to a full-time job.
For many, liberation comes in the form of freelancing.
So much so that 84% of Americans feel they have their preferred lifestyle as freelancers. You are not bound by fixed working hours on a daily basis. You can work virtually from anywhere – your home or a cafe. You can try and pick projects of your choice, and not get into what you don’t like doing.
That said, freelancing isn’t all good. There are good and not-so-good aspects when it’s freelance vs. a full-time job.
The biggest of them all is that you don’t have a regular income, and for many people, it is a factor impossible to ignore. It is all the more important when you have a family to support and monthly expenses to take care of. Plus if you have to take care of loan or mortgage payments, you do need a consistent flow of income in your account.
What can also make you torn between working in an office or being a freelancer is the work culture?
If your company provides a good working environment, you may feel all this hard work and sacrifice is worth the time you’re putting in.
Not to forget the benefits that many companies provide, especially the big ones, like medical insurance, provident fund, office conveyance, etc. These things can really create a dilemma when you have to choose between your regular job and the idea of going freelancing.
Then again, people are leaving their corporate life behind to pursue their dream. Or they are simply financially capable of supporting themselves as a freelancer. This is actually a growing trend among Millennials.
According to this research, the number of freelancers grew from 53 million to 56.7 million, in the US, between 2013 to 2018. And 47% among them have been Millennials.
But making a smooth transition to a whole new freelancing career requires planning so that you do not nosedive financially.
Here are some important points that can help you make that switch successfully:
- Prepare for your life after corporate
- Save, so that you don’t go bankrupt!
- Keep your expectations real
- Take it easy, it can be stressful in the beginning
- Keep track of your income
- Know when to appraise yourself
Prepare for your life after corporate
Many companies have a contractual clause restricting their employees from taking another professional project (freelance) as long as they’re employed with them. That’s understandable especially if it creates competition. But you can always go ahead and create a network of people that can help you out with work in the future.
Create a portfolio of your work and skills, and share it with people when the time comes. Research and gather information about the work you intend to do as a freelancer. It is also good to know people who are freelancers so that they can tell you precisely what needs to be done in order to get a regular flow of work. Those people can further lead you to more people and companies that work with freelancers.
The decision to go completely freelancing cannot be taken in haste. It needs thorough planning. You just can’t get up one day and quit your job, unless you’re sitting on a fat bank balance. Talk to your family and include them in your thought process. A lot could be going on in your mind, and your family might be able to help you with the job and career-related queries. Don’t make it only about yourself, as they are the ones who will be directly affected.
Planning, building a portfolio and creating a network takes time. Be patient, and cope up with that irritating job of yours a bit more! In fact, thinking ahead about your freelancing days could inject some much needed positive energy in you.
The freelancing sector is actually getting better though. Within the year 2018, 59% of companies in the US were using freelancing and remote workforce.
Save, so that you don’t go broke!
The fear of losing regular income can actually make you realize how difficult it is to break away from a routine.
When you’re used to getting a salary at the beginning of each month, you’re able to create a pattern. The idea is to save money, so that you can try and maintain that pattern, especially at the beginning of your new endeavor. This is important even if your family members are self-reliant. It is possible that you’re risking the overall financial stability of your household.
It goes without saying that you need to try and get projects to work on as early as possible, in order to not entirely rely on your savings. Especially when you’re a novice freelancer, it is good to have guidance on how to begin your new journey.
Keep your expectations real
Leaving your job for a freelance career puts you through a lot of emotions. There are excitement and curiosity about the future projects that you want to take up. You are also nervous, feeling how it is going to go. You hope that all your plans will fall into place and that you end up feeling like it’s the best decision you’ve ever made.
Working in an office or being a freelancer can be a tricky decision to make.
Freelancing brings you flexibility, which is why you love it. Just the thought of catching a movie in a theatre on an odd weekday could refresh you up. You can work early in the morning, in the afternoon or late at night if it suits you. More or less, you have total freedom to pick your own time to work.
Keep your expectations real though. Freelancing also brings instability until the time you’ve fallen into a rhythm and getting regular work. Different people and companies follow different payment cycles. For example, you generally get paid per project (after completing it). And because each project requires its own time to finish, the flow of income becomes irregular along with the inconsistency in the size of the pay package.
Take it easy, it can be stressful in the beginning
With all its flexibility and freedom, freelancing throws its own share of stress on you. Just the thought of earning money as regularly as possible can stress you out, more so if you’re leaving a high-paying job.
Especially in the beginning, you have to work harder to get projects as you communicate with potential clients. There are also several platforms that provide freelancing opportunities that are worth checking out.
It is almost certain that you’ll first have to provide them the samples of your previous work. You can also be asked to do an assignment to showcase the capability and the quality of your work before you’re entrusted with a real project.
You may have to work twice as hard, and at odd hours until you establish a regular clientele. Ideally, that should be your target while continuously trying to get newer projects as and when your time allows.
Keep track of your income
It is easy to keep track of your income and spending when you’re earning on a monthly basis. But even then, there are many small and random expenses that you may not be able to keep a check on. You may end up wondering where the cents and dollars go away!
Keeping track of your income becomes paramount when you’re a freelancer. It may sound restrictive but you’ll have to become more careful with your spending. If you are someone who loves to splurge, you’re probably in for a shocker!
Another big reason is tax. As a freelancer, it comes entirely on you to ensure where your earnings fall in the tax bracket. Get in touch with a chartered accountant (CA) to understand any tax-related concerns. Set aside the part of your salary which needs to be deducted or paid as tax and avoid being too liberal with your spending. This is something not to be missed.
Know when to appraise yourself
One of the benefits of a regular job you will be giving up is the regular appraisal cycle. Whether or not it is up to your liking is a different matter altogether, but at least, companies usually provide yearly appraisals to their employees.
As a freelancer, you don’t get that privilege!
You need to be confident in the quality of the work you do. Deliver it in the time agreed with your client, as well as adhere to any other contractual obligation you may have. Maintain the quality of your work, improve it with time, and know your worth.
You must realize that as a freelancer, you will have to pitch yourself much more compared to what you might have done in your yearly appraisals. You need to know, with time and experience, when to increase the price of your work.
And that depends on a number of factors, like:
- Length of the project
- The amount of hard work it requires
- The amount of time required to complete it
- It may also depend on the scale of the company or client you’re dealing with
You can always negotiate depending on the situation. For example, if it is an urgent requirement which would require you to put more effort than what is needed normally, you can definitely try and ask for a reasonably higher price.
There’s no doubt that there is an element of taking a leap of faith when you are leaving a well-paying job to become a freelancer. But with planning and preparation, you can make a smooth transition to a whole new career.