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What to expect if you are embarking on a life as a freelancer

One of the most exciting things about work in our times is that you can choose from a variety of different working models — full-time, contract or freelance. Each comes with its perks and pitfalls. For most, freelancing sounds like a dream. There is the freedom to work in your space and time, be your own boss and choose for yourself what you want to work on.

Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Yet, freelancing isn’t meant for everyone. For some, working full-time with an organization brings out their best selves, while giving them guaranteed financial stability. For others, the independence and creativity that come with freelancing are more suited to their style. There is no denying that the first few months of being a freelancer are going to be tough. So if you have been thinking about choosing to freelance, here’s what you need to know.

Freelancing gives you complete control

The autonomy that comes with being self-employed is one of the reasons why many people find freelancing so appealing. If you are the entrepreneurial kind, you may consider starting your own business and craft your path to long-term profitability. The challenge with this model is that you are not profitable from day one. You may hence want to look at service-based businesses where you get paid by the hour for short-term projects. You may always run your product business on the side and pivot towards that over the long term.

Alternately, you may also choose to enroll on freelancing websites and pitch for specific projects. There is no dearth of opportunities to work on when you are the only one who can assign work to yourself.

If you have decided to start a business, you will need to set up a website or an online e-commerce store. But even if you are a freelancer, having a professional website or at least a portfolio online will add to your credentials. Personal branding can go a long way in showcasing to potential clients what you are capable of, what you believe in and how you can add value to them. It is a great place to articulate that you are committed to your work, that you understand the nuances of being a freelancer and that the client is not just a temporary side-gig.

A website also allows you to put up any testimonials or feedback you have from your clients. Reviews can go a long way in establishing your credibility. What your past clients say about you helps others determine whether they should pick you instead of another freelancer. The best way to capture feedback is to conduct email surveys among your clients and ask them to leave an honest, in-depth review before you finish the project. If the client’s response is positive, you may even want to nudge them and ask them to leave a rating for you on the freelancing board from which they assigned you the work. But if the response is negative, you should set up a call and have a candid conversation to understand what made the client unhappy and if there are ways to resolve any conflicts. Remember that freelancing is about building a great rapport with clients and this affects not only your existing relationships but also sets the tone for any future business.

You will have to work your way through some roadblocks

Working as a freelancer means having to contend with all sorts of time constraints, staying up through weird hours and falling prey to an inconsistent schedule. The key to maintaining sanity and staying productive is to set realistic project expectations in consultation with the client.

You also need to embrace self-promotion. When you work independently you have to be your own marketing and sales person. Whether you are approaching prospects through email or applying to postings on job boards, you need to set yourself apart and convey in perhaps just a few lines, why you are ideal for the project. And you have to do this repeatedly, every time with every new client.

Not having a boss means not having anyone to hold you accountable except for your client and slippage is a very real risk. Inefficiencies can creep in and staying upbeat and motivated can get difficult. You need to be highly self-driven and set targets for yourself, in order to ensure that you always stay on track.

Another real risk is when you are a part of a virtual team. Remote work can involve collaborating with people, and because they are not physically present together, it can get quite chaotic and cumbersome. Tools like Twist exist to smoothen remote work collaboration.

Working as a freelancer can be highly rewarding

There are the obvious benefits — you can pick and choose clients you want to work with based on your core expertise and shared values. It is also a great way to exercise your creativity and leverage your strengths. Your work is location independent and except for any face-to-face meetings with prospects or clients, there is no headache of having to commute to work.

As a freelancer, you also get tax benefits and deductions. For instance, the UK government is raising the personal allowance to £12,500 for 2019-20, which means people who are self-employed need to only start paying income tax once they cross this threshold.

Freelancing depends a lot on building a consistent and good reputation. So remember to constantly refine your pitch, use every opportunity to network and let your friends and acquaintances know you are now operating independently. If you are transitioning from a full-time job, ensure you have some savings already so that you can cushion any financial hardships you may face when starting out. Also, assess the market demand in advance and gain some visibility on who could be your potential clients.

If you can maintain a proper work-life balance, life as a freelancer will be a joyful, liberating experience and help you realise your passions professionally.

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