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Entrepreneurs you follow might make it look glamorous. The idea of holding your own destiny in your hands might be an appealing one. But be warned: the freelancer life isn’t for everyone. Yes, freelancing does offer some freedom. But that freedom can be daunting or dangerous for those who aren’t prepared or well-suited to use it wisely.
Whether you’re pondering taking your “side hustle” full-time, or practicing your current trade independently, here are some signs you’re ready for this growing world of work.
Your focus skills are in check.
Whenever my mom calls and I tell her what I’m working on, she always remarks, “You’re so disciplined.” While that doesn’t always feel true—there are definitely days where the struggle to finish a piece or energetically hold up my end of a work call is real—she’s correct that discipline is an essential piece of successful freelancing.
Discipline is an essential piece of successful freelancing. Click To Tweet
This doesn’t mean setting a 9-to-5, 5 day/week schedule, but it does mean having systems in place to get work done, and aligning with when and how you work best. What time of day are you “freshest” for big projects? Where do you like to work best? What times of year will be busiest, and do you have a plan for the “lean” times in between? Spend time learning the answers to these questions. Then, live them out each day as your business grows.
You’re ready to wear several hats.
I had a false moment of excitement when I moved into a freelance capacity. I’d be able to just focus on the work I wanted to do, leaving smaller administrative frustrations behind. That moment was fleeting. I learned quickly that those tasks would be replaced with bigger ones, ones I had to accept and become well-versed in. Freelancers stand to be not only their own bosses, but their own HR professionals (handling hiring, benefits administration, and training), accountants, marketing representatives, librarians, and editors. The self-regulation mentioned above has to be maintained not just across your primary task, but also the many other roles freelancers hold for themselves.
You’re a super-connector.
Despite being an introverted person who’s far more at home online than she is in the face to face world, I take great pains to get to know people and make connections with individuals whose work I admire or am interested in. That’s served me well as a freelancer, where knowing influencers in your target market can ensure you work steadily.
Implied in “super-connector” status is the willingness to cultivate relationships not just for yourself, but for other individuals. Are you willing to share your address book with other freelance professionals? How about creating connections that may not tangibly benefit you? It might surprise you how these connections can endear you to other folks, and materialize into work or meaningful collaboration down the line. Be that person who doesn’t just collect cards or connect online, but one who turns those moments and introductions into lasting relationships.
You’re unafraid to talk about yourself and your work.
A point of clarification: the fear I speak of isn’t about shyness, but rather modesty. Not everyone can collapse their work into an elevator speech, or do so immediately. But it does mean you’ll need to be comfortable with who you are and what you do. This is essential for pitching yourself to new clients, or making a case to extend a contract.
You'll need to be comfortable with who you are and what you do. Click To Tweet
It can be hard to answer that “what do you do?” question that is thrown around so often when you’re a freelancer. And it’s even harder to hear “I work for myself” or “I’m a business owner” the first few times you say it. But the more you push yourself to speak openly and clearly about your work, the more opportunities you’ll unlock in social and professional circles.
The idea of an uncertain life doesn’t scare you.
I don’t want to sound alarmist, but freelancing full-time can differ starkly from more traditional work. Building up a stable of work to keep money coming in regular is essential. Also essential is an ability to survive “lean” work periods, or plan to avoid them altogether. Some might use this as a reason to stay away from the freelancing life.
However, what can be uncertain is also immensely rewarding. Being able to build a version of your life that you create is an amazing feeling. “Brave” is a word attributed to this kind of work often, and I’ve never quite agreed with it. I would instead say “faithful.” Have faith in your ability to make the right connections, the versatility to the create a solid workflow, and the humility to roll with the punches of a freelance life. Armed with these traits and abilities, you’re well on your way to succeed as a freelancer.