Having what it takes to go freelance

Many people long to hand in their resignation at work. They dream about being self-employed, with flexibility, freedom, and the chance to make their own decisions – but it takes a bit of planning.

Everybody dreams about taking the leap, and while it’s very possible there are a few things to keep in mind before you go.

There are challenges associated with freelancing which are totally unique, and it’s not for everybody.

So, how do you know if it’s for you?


You know exactly who you’re targeting


To succeed as a freelancer, be clear about exactly who you’re targeting.

It’s not enough to say your clients will be ‘small businesses’ or ‘accounting firms’, for instance.

Instead, know the defined niche you will specialise in, and what services you will provide to meet this target market’s needs.

For example, you might work with startups in the education sector, or with forensic accountants in state government departments.

By knowing your customer type, you can be sure you provide something different to them.

You must solve a real problem – one they’re willing to pay for.

Plus, you need to know where to find these clients, and how to market to them best (e.g. online or at networking events).

Knowing all of this will help you to become an expert in your field, and to dominate the market.

Not sure who to target? If so, research!

READ: A guide to market research for new business owners

Learn about the different types of niches in your industry, and find out if any of them are currently under-served.

Think about your skill set, background and expertise, too. This will alert you to knowledge you have that your competitors don’t.

Capitalise on this.


You have well-developed time-management skills


As a freelancer, you must adhere to deadlines. If you don’t, you’ll miss out on repeat business from clients, and recommendations from them, too.

This will dramatically affect your ability to make a living.

Remember, once you’re out on your own, there’s no one but yourself to complete the work.

You must effectively juggle numerous projects at once, and various task types (e.g. researching potential customers, quoting for work, completing jobs, invoicing, handling admin, marketing, etc.).

Without time-management skills, you’re likely to disappoint clients; you’ll struggle to grow your business; and you’ll end up burning yourself out.

Practice managing your time now. Be more productive in your current job, and challenge yourself to get more done at home and in leisure time.

Start working on your freelance career path now, too. Research, plan, and even begin doing work on the side to build up your experience and testimonials.

This will be a good test to see how you’ll cope if you go full time.


Resilience and confidence


Freelancers must regularly quote for work, and jobs don’t usually fall in your lap until you’ve been at it for a while and have built up a good database and regularly receive referrals.

This means you’ll need to cold call or email people to get work, and will quote for many jobs you don’t land.

READ: What works best? Cold call or email?

This is part of being a freelancer, but can be rather hard to swallow, particularly when you’re not used to it.

Freelancers also have to deal with a very up and down income stream. You may go through quiet periods, where you struggle to make ends meet.

At these times, you need to stay confident and believe your circumstances will improve. As a freelancer, you must truly be resilient, with the ability to bounce back from challenges.

You’ll have to be persistent, so you get enough work to live on too.

You also have to have confidence in yourself and your abilities, particularly when it comes to making new connections with potential clients, and negotiating your fees.

Before you start freelancing then, build up your self-esteem.

Learn to be okay with ‘no’ and understand that criticism of your work isn’t a condemnation of you, personally.

Follow the above steps, and you’ll be ready to go as a freelancer in no time.