Is going freelance to get flexibility a good idea?
If you can’t find the flexibility you need in a permanent job, working for yourself can seem like the perfect solution. And certainly, if you have skills or experience that make freelancing viable, it can be a brilliant way to get more control over when, where and how much you work.
However as with any change, there are pros and cons to going freelance to get flexibility. And you’ll have a lot of decisions to make, from how you’ll operate financially to what to call yourself. But the biggest decision is whether freelancing is actually the flexible solution you’re looking for. Here are five questions to help you decide.
- Will you need to retrain first?
Unless your current skills and experience are directly transferable to a freelance career, you may need to retrain. If that’s the case, can you afford to stop work to do so? It can be hard to combine training and working, but the alternative is to have a period without earning.
- Can it work around any responsibilities you have?
If you’re hoping that going freelance will help you work around children or other caring responsibilities, you’ll need to assess whether it will work in practice. For example, if your childcare isn’t flexible, will you be able to keep paying for it if the work slows down? If you’re planning to work at home with your children around, will you be able to focus?
Some parent freelancers get round this by having a ‘child swap’ arrangement with a friend. It can be a great solution if your parenting styles are similar, but it will need careful planning and maybe even a trial period.
- Will you need premises or can you work from home?
If your work is desk-based, you may be able to do it from home. You’ll need to make sure you have the right kit – hardware and software – and a space in which you can work. It’s worth thinking through how you’ll switch off at the end of your working day, though. If you’re based at your kitchen table, the boundaries between working and not working can easily get blurred.
If you’re offering a different kind of service, such as personal training, life coaching or health and beauty, you are more likely to need a bespoke space, either within your home or elsewhere. It may be worth researching your options for flexible workspaces before you make a final decision.
- How will you manage the lulls?
All freelancers have times where the work slows down. Sometimes this is due to external circumstances, such as quieter holiday periods, or dips in the economy that affect people’s spending power. Sometimes, frustratingly, there isn’t a specific reason.
Either way, you’ll need to think through how you will manage a lull financially. (Some freelancers advocate saving 50% of their earnings to tide them over, though this is not affordable for everyone.) Another solution is to time holidays around your market’s potential peaks and troughs. It’s also worth thinking ahead about how you’ll stay motivated during a quiet patch.
- Where will your clients come from?
Most freelance careers are based on offering a product or service to clients. So you’ll need to feel confident that you’ll be able to find some. Again, the strategies you’ll need to implement will depend on what you’re offering. But here are some starting points for building a network of contacts and champions:
- Former colleagues. People you have worked with successfully in the past are likely to be your biggest champions, particularly if you have stayed in the same sector. Share your plans and ask for their help in developing new contacts.
- Informal networking. Talk about your new career when you’re chatting to people, whether it’s fellow parents at the school gate or acquaintances at the gym. You never know what they might be interested in, or who they might know.
- Formal networking. There are a huge number of networking groups, from the global, intensely-focused BNI to the female-only Women In Business Network. Most offer the chance to try before you commit, so take your time to find one which will suit you.
- Social media. Finally, don’t forget the power of social media in raising your profile – particularly LinkedIN. If you don’t have an account, create one, and get former colleagues to endorse you. Then link up with people you know and keep yourself front of mind by posting and sharing relevant articles and opinions.
If your answers to these questions encourage you to go freelance to get flexibility, you can find some tips on getting started here: https://www.theukdomain.uk/heres-what-you-need-to-do-when-you-go-freelance/
Whatever you decide, good luck.