Living the life of a freelancer means living a life of uncertainty. Not knowing when or where your next pay cheque is coming from requires a certain mindset and a lot of confidence.

Way before you decide to hand in your resignation, make sure that you are unequivocally certain that freelancing is for you. Ensure that you are ready to give up the comforts and security of full time employment- with all the perks- and that you are not just leaving your job because you are tired of the monotony and occasional boredom of your current working conditions.

Take note: As a freelancer there is no such a thing as the perfect holiday, where you are able to completely forget about work. You realise that when there’s no job to forget, and no definite work to come back to, you can never completely relax. Even those who are in the fortunate position of lazing in the sun cocktailing the days away harbour the undercurrent of worry. You will lie there pondering whether this is the last of your money; should you rather be home, tightening your belt; marketing your business; networking, or speaking to this person who knows that person who is an acquaintance of the third person until you rustle up some work?

Like many things in life, freelancing comes with its own list of pros and cons. While your hours are your own, you can say goodbye to the steady monthly income, paid holidays, sick leave and company contributions, and say hello to that all-too-familiar awkward new job feeling.

As most people hire freelancers based on word of mouth, successful freelancing does not just happen overnight. This is why so many people wait to begin freelancing after they have held down full-time positions at enough companies to establish a reputation and make friends in the business.

Freelancing isn’t necessarily all or nothing. If you’re not comfortable flying without a rope, consider freelancing as a way to supplement your existing income until you have enough businesses to sustain you. For some, this could be deemed as having the best of both worlds because you get all the social and monetary benefits of a steady job and still have enough spare time to deal with your freelance work.

On the upside, if you are able jump between the swinging ropes, understand what problems you are faced with, put together solutions, and then jump right out without skipping a beat, then the world of freelancing is not all doom and gloom. As it’s often the job of a freelancer to leap into things mid-flow, you need to be flexible enough to work well with a wide variety of companies, people and situations.

A successful freelancer needs to have more drive than a Ferrari. Rather than doing your eight hours of predictive slog work every day, you now have to go out hunting for your livelihood. Do you have enough guts to stomach self promotion? Does the thought of saying “Here’s my card” make you feel like a shady used-car salesman? If you can’t stand the heat, then maybe you need to get out of the kitchen.

If you feel you’ve got the determination to freelance, you still have to decide what kind of freelancer you want to be. You may start with doing all kinds of work until you find your niche. It may take some trial and error, but eventually you’ll learn what sort of work you enjoy and do well and promote yourself accordingly.

If you’re the kind of person who spends whatever you have and more, then the freelance lifestyle may get you into all kinds of trouble. Not only do you need a hoarding ability to save for the lean times, you also have to plan ahead for tax and unforeseen expenses.

So as you struggle with what title to put on your business card, ask yourself this: What type of an expert am I? Do I know how to do one thing well? Am I a ‘company of one’ who does a little bit of everything; a consultant; or am I going to roll them sleeves back and do the dirty work myself?

Regardless of where you lay your hat, remember to care for the present, not to forget about the future, and leave your mark!

Small Business Forum

The Small Business Forum is an independent network of entrpreneurs and small business owners established to encourage and support the creation, growth and development of small business in South Africa.

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