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Five things to consider before taking the leap into independent contracting

Like so many others, you’re probably all hyped up on the “gig economy.” I mean, why wouldn’t you be? They’re talking about it on all the morning TV shows and using it in commercials, so it must be a thing, right? Working for yourself, whether it’s driving strangers around alone or offering your business skills directly to clients, definitely sounds more attractive than having Bill Lumburgh hassle you about your TPS reports.

BUT. Before you freelance, contract independently, or try to turn your side gig into your only gig, you should really do a gut check. Because as attractive as it is, it’s not for everyone. So, here are the five things you must consider before going off on your own:

5. Are you patient? Freelancing is a lot of things, but a “get-rich-quick” (or “get-rich-at-all”) scheme is ISN’T. At the start, work will be slow, or low-paying, or both. Once you’re established, there will be just as many “famines” as there are “feasts.” Oh, and most clients take FOREVER to pay. So, if you’re into instant gratification of any sort — or the security of a check every two weeks no matter what — you probably won’t enjoy this life.

4. Are you anxious? Freelancing is stressful. Doing the work is the easy part. Finding the work, keeping the work going, and getting paid are the parts that make you want to rip your hair out. There are lots of ups and downs with clients, money, and work-life balance. LOTS. And without a set 9-to-5 or layers of salespeople, HR, and accounting departments to shield you, it’s all on your shoulders. And while you’re doing all the administrative stuff, you have less time to do the work. If you can juggle it all, GREAT. But if you’re prone to worry, fasten your seatbelt. Or better yet, don’t get in.

3. Are you organized? If no one will trust you with a checkbook, or you’re constantly missing appointments, get ready to step your game up. As a freelancer you’re 100% in control of your schedule. And payroll. And paperwork. And tax withholding. And that’s before you even get into keeping your clients’ work in order.

2. Are you talented? Yeah, this one requires a long, hard look. If you don’t have the experience or expertise to attract or keep clients, your freelance journey will be a short one. Hone your craft. Build your network. And have something to offer. As a younger professional, your lack of experience will often lead to you charging less, which decreases the likelihood of you making enough to live on. And without a network that you’ve built up over the years to refer or recommend you, how will you land a client who doesn’t know you?

1. Do you have support? And no, I don’t mean a sugar daddy or a rich old lady who makes you dance for her — unless that’s your particular cup of tea. I’m talking about a family (and/or friends) that understands what you’re doing and backs you up emotionally and mentally. Because freelancing is hard enough without a parent or spouse constantly harassing you to “get a real job.” Some days, simply knowing that you’ve got people who believe in you is just what you need to keep going. And those days are plentiful.

Scary? Yes. Worth it? EVERY DANG DAY. Point is, if you’re going into freelancing, do it with eyes open. It’s not all working in your pajamas and rolling in dough — but once you accept the realities of it, freelancing is as fulfilling as you make it.

©2019 by Kwame DeRoché

Kwame DeRoche