10 crucial things to know before one want to start freelancing. Not to scare you but to give you a reality check about being a freelancer
Over the Internet, you will always read and hear good things about being a freelancer. You learn such good things about freelancers is because they have managed the success and prefer to share it with the world. However, before you want to start freelancing, there are a few crucial things one should know.
Again, the idea of this article is not to scare you from being a freelancer but give you some reality checks.
I share about my freelancing journey because it works for me. However, when you look at some of the things I share, you may find things are easy.
So one must be aware of the reality before jumping into being a freelancer. Freelancing may not be for everybody. Still maybe worth a try if you can embrace these changes in your life as a freelancer.
1. Freelancing isn’t easy
If you have a very rosy picture of freelancing and think it is is a walk in the park, you have to get your facts correct. It is not at all easy.
It is very tough to be a freelancer.
There can be days when you have no work from clients, and then there will be days when you have a delivery date for multiple clients. You have to manage both the scenario with calmness.
However, it may not be the complete picture of freelancing.
Again, working in a small freelancing niche may not be that easy to understand at the beginning.
After you have everything correct, then comes the toughest part, you have to learn communications, negotiations, and other such skills.
Again, the idea isn’t to scare you away from freelancing but to have you the right mindset before you want to start freelancing.
Remember, freelancing isn’t easy, but then it is worth the try. The best part is you have so many advantages to it like time freedom, place freedom, etc.
2. Work-Life Balance
You can work from your home and in pajamas, but that doesn’t mean you should start working as early as you wake up and work as late as you are awake.
As a new freelancer, when you have a lot of work coming your way, even if you do that, it can’t continue for a long time.
You need a personal life and need good work and life balance.
Everybody can’t maintain a fixed working schedule from home. I am horrible at it and still start as soon as I can and work as much as I could.
Still, I am trying to manage my personal life, and it is still in a horrible state for sure. I had issues taking long vacations early on. Finally, I managed it.
Again, it won’t be easy, and you have to learn to balance a personal and professional life as a freelancer. One should know before one jumps to being a freelancer.
3. Learning Isn’t Paid
When you are doing a job, if a company decides to make a move from one technology to another, there will be formal training for making a move as smooth as possible for the employees.
In the freelancing world, you aren’t paid for making a move and learning new technology. You are paid for what you know. Moreover, if you aren’t good enough at it, others who are will be preferred.
So, one has to keep aside time to focus on learning. Because if you are not ahead of the technology curve, you can become outdated very fast.
4. Need More Than Just Technical Skills
As a developer working for a tech company, there is very little that one needs to know beyond tech stuff.
When one wants to clear an interview, answers to some common HR questions can be more than enough if one clears the technical interview.
However, as a developer who wants to start freelancing, there is a lot more to know than just programming stuff.
One needs to know how to interact with clients, how to read between the lines of client requirements, how to manage multiple clients and keep them happy, how to get referral clients from existing clients, marketing, negotiations, communication, etc.
The list doesn’t stop here. One also needs to know the accounting, taxation, etc.
A simple example of techy people who lack communication is – What client may be interested in a simple yes or no answer if something is feasible or not. He or she may not be interested in knowing the technical knowhow why it may not be possible.
If you are not good at it, one has to learn those skills along the process to be better at freelancing.
5. Freelance Without Job Mindset
Freelancing is not a job. It’s a business.
Some people aren’t business-minded, and if you aren’t one of them, you can have a tough time being a freelancer.
I have seen many individual freelancers and small web development companies take freelancing as a job – though not a traditional one.
Let me explain how.
As a freelancer, if you focus on working for clients and keep trading time for money, freelancing is a kind of job with a difference that you are not working for one employer but a few employers.
Similarly, I see some small web development companies like to hire a few people and consider working on labor arbitrage. They recruit for X amount as salary and try to deliver 2X to 2.5X of work from those employees. In contrast, the idea should be to develop a team for a company.
As a freelancer, one has to be a visionary to foresee things that can change the world in the future and should be ready to make a move before it becomes an acceptable solution for the vast majority. There will be a lot more things that may not work, but there will be vital few that you can’t be missed.
6. Ready to Work Without Any Security
If you cannot take the risk, you aren’t freelancing material. You can be out of business any day, and you should be ready for such unforeseen activities.
vBSEO was the choice of software of every vBulletin webmaster, and as of today, they are out of business.
The reason for vBSEO’s downfall was disruptive changes in vBulletin.
The example may not sound relevant to you.
However, can you survive if Upwork is out of business tomorrow?
May sound fictional, but with the current global scenario, Upwork can be banned in the US just to make sure US people get these jobs?
Before you want to start freelancing, it is essential to be well-diversified and cover the risks that one can foresee.
7. Should be able to Prioritize
As a freelancer, one works for multiple clients.
It means one needs to prioritize work based on what you can achieve working for a day.
How much time and effort one should allocate to each client’s project, so it keeps moving forward, and the client feels the progress of the project.
Even when you are working as a team, you need to make sure the team progress is monitored such that each assigned task is moving forward.
8. Should be ok without Socializing
When you are working from home, you are working alone.
If you need someone to be able to help you with your problems or need someone to have a sip of coffee in the middle of work or want to discuss aspects of work, you can have a tough time as a freelancer.
For coffee, you have a family. However, if you are the one who needs to talk about the work with someone, it can be a tough ask as a work from home freelancer.
You will be interacting with clients with your kids jumping around. You have to set the right environment to let your kids know when you are working.
It is tough to be an individual freelancer.
9. Self Motivation
If money is the only reason for you to be a freelancer, you will soon run out of self-motivation.
You can be driven by money till you may own a house, maybe till you make some excellent investments but not beyond a point.
If a passion for being a freelancer drives you, you have a higher chance of being a freelancer.
Being a freelancer is a journey that you should be ready to enjoy and work.
After a decade of being a freelancer, I still work for 80 hours a week, not because I want to but because I love to. I am doing what I love.
Financially, I have the freedom to stop working, but I love to work and keep learning new things.
10. Humongous Patience
Freelancer needs to be patience in every aspect of freelancing.
Have the patience to let the client decide on the best possible resource for getting their work done. You have to make sure you have enough patience to wait out for them to make the decision.
The client may not be technically sound to be able to understand all that you may say, and his questions may look too basic for you. It is when you have to wear the hat of clients to be able to explain to them in their terms without losing your calmness and patience.
As an employee, you are always surrounded by people who know your terminology. When it comes to clients, you have to explain to them like kids.
As a developer, for me, many things are understood.
Like for example, if I am making a CSS changes, the client has to clear the browser cache to see the changes. We assume the client knows when it is CSS changes, and when they aren’t, but the reality is they don’t.
Each time we do CSS changes, we have to include, please clear the cache to see the changes, and if you don’t, the response from the client is – I don’t see the changes.
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