I've gotten quite used to the looks of envy I get whenever I say I work from home. The reaction is easy to understand; who wouldn't want a freelance home based job? You work at your own leisure, you don't have to change into a uniform, and you're saved from the hassle of the 7 am traffic. You get savings from transportation and dining out, as well as opportunities for extended family time. Overall? Not a bad deal at all.
But while there are many benefits to going freelance, it's not as easy as many assume. Working for yourself requires a complete 180 degrees change in mindset, as compared to working for an established organization. Being both boss and employee doesn't mean added liberty. It means exactly that: twice the responsibility!
Whatever freelance services you wish to deliver, here are some areas for reflection before you make the shift to being self-employed:
One vs. Many Bosses.
It's not unusual for people to take on freelance work to get away from their overbearing, slave driver employers. But did you know that when you go freelance, you multiply the number of your bosses by the number of your projects?
That's right, you don't just have to balance one person's expectations, you have to balance several people! Some clients will be lax; others would be strict. There are those who would micromanage you, and there are those who would expect you to do everything for them with absolutely no instructions. In the freelance world, all of your clients are your employers, and you have to please them all!
This calls from you great skills in adjusting to different personalities, managing time, coordinating schedules and communicating updates. If you're not the type to dance to different drummers all at once, then maybe freelancing is not for you. If several things moving all at once overwhelms you, then you should think twice about working alone. Contrary to popular belief, freelancing is neither for the anti-social nor the easy-going.
Consistent vs. Unpredictable Income.
Ideally, freelancers should have a monthly quota that they have to meet in order to live comfortably. However, if you're self-marketing, there is really no guarantee that you will meet or exceed your target earnings. There will be lean months, and there would be times when your back would break from too much work. And yes, there are also occasions when clients would swindle your hard earned cash! You have to be able to roll with the punches, and anticipate potential setbacks in every project that you do.
Those familiar with freelancing know that a huge chunk of a service provider's time is actually spent on marketing: lead generation, proposal writing, cold calling, profile building, etc. These tasks don't pay directly (and would in fact cost you!), and you should consider them as overhead expenses that must be recovered. So, it's not really true that you get to rake in all you earn; what you don't spend commuting to the office, you spend getting those jobs!
Security from the Company vs. Self-Provision.
Simply put: a freelancer is his or her own caretaker. When you decide to work for your own, you have to say goodbye to employee benefits like free dental and medical check-ups, insurance and salary loans. You also have to set your own "maximum working hours", and dictate "vacation leaves" ---- or else you'll burn out. If you're not used to self-care, then maybe you should think twice about freelancing.
Clear Work-Home Boundaries vs. "I can't work and cook at the same time!"
Lastly, you have to consider whether your home is actually the most conducive place for you to work at. Aside from the obvious requirements of space and quiet, there's also the crucial aspect of being able to separate your work persona from your home persona. Many presume that because you work from home, you can be constantly interrupted to watch the kids, do the laundry and answer the door. If you can't set a clear boundary between you as a worker, and you as a parent/ spouse/ child, then you'd go crazy in no time!