7 Ways to Kill Your Freelance Career Before it Starts
Moving into a career as a full-time freelance designer presents a lot of changes regardless of whether you are coming from a full-time job as an employed designer, completion of education for design, or a change in career paths.
There is a lot more to freelancing success than just being able to design. Some very significant factors should be considered ahead of time, otherwise you may be dooming yourself to a rough road as a freelancer.
In this article we’ll look at some very important things that you should be considering and planning for prior to starting your career as a freelancer. Knowing the potential roadblocks can be a huge help as it allows you to prepare yourself and have a plan in place.
Here are 7 ways that you can kill your freelance career before it even begins.
1. Go Full-Time Freelance Too Soon
The ideal situation to move into full-time freelance work is to start part-time and gradually move towards the point where you can smoothly transition from your full-time job into full-time freelance. This can be extremely helpful financially as you will not face the same pressure to make a certain amount of money right away, and you can focus on building your portfolio, gaining experience at managing client projects, and develop your business plan.
The same situation can apply to students as well. Part-time freelancing during your education can teach you more than you’ll ever be able to learn in a classroom, and if you work at it for a while, by the time you finish your education you’ll have a portfolio of work and some extremely valuable experience under your belt.
Some freelancers are forced into the situation through the unexpected loss of a job or some other career-changing or life-changing event. In these situations there is often very little that you can do to prevent it, but in an ideal case you’ll be able to work your way towards full-time freelancing so that the transition goes smoothly.
Jumping in to full-time freelance work too early can lead to a lot of pressure to make money right away, and if you’re not able to, it could have a serious impact on you and your family. In addition to just having that pressure, you’ll also be likely to feel that you need to take every potential project that comes your way rather than focusing on those that are a good fit for you, and you may even charge less than you are worth for fear of not getting the work.
2. Don’t Have Savings Set Aside
Even if you move from part-time freelancing to full-time freelance work at a time when you’re workload is steady, chances are the first few months (if not longer) will include some times where your income is not as much as you need to get by.
If you have savings set aside specifically to help you get through these slower times you will have a much better chance of making it in the long-term, rather than being forced back into full-time employment because of client work being slower than expected.
If you’re planning to make the jump to full-time freelance work, make sure that you leave enough time to build up some savings before doing so.
3. Assume it is Easy Because You are a Skilled Designer
Being a talented designer will certainly help you to be able to achieve success as a freelancer, but it is not enough on its own. Even the best designers need to be able to manage their finances, market their services, provide quality customer service, and manage their working and personal time.
If you haven’t freelanced on a full-time basis before you may be surprised to find how much time you will spend on things other than design work. Freelancing requires being able to run a business successfully. Even though you don’t need to be a business expert you do need to embrace the broad responsibilities that will be yours.
4. Don’t Have a Marketing Plan
If you’ve worked as a designer for an agency you were probably only responsible for doing the actual design work and communicating with clients. Finding and securing the business was probably not your concern, but it is a major challenge for most new freelancers.
Before you go into full-time freelance work think about how you will market yourself to find the clients that you’ll need to earn a full-time income. Hopefully you’ll already have some experience with finding clients on a part-time basis and you may even have some referrals coming in from your past clients and friends and family.
Here is a post on writing a marketing plan. It is written for freelance writers, but it is applicable for designers as well.
5. Don’t Focus on Organization
In order to run an efficient freelance business there are a number of different ways that you will need to be organized. Some of the most significant ones include organization of your finances, organization of your record keeping, organization of your time, and organization of your workspace.
Online apps like Ronin, Freshbooks and FreeAgent (among others) can help with finances and record keeping. How you organize yourself is not important, we all work best in different ways, but what is important is that you have a plan that will work for you.
Without organization you will find that the majority of your time is spent on activities that bring in no money, and the income-producing client work often takes a back seat. For help with knowing how to organize your time see our post 15 Steps to a More Productive Workday.
6. Don’t Consider Expenses Needed to Run the Business
Freelance designers have an excellent opportunity to run a profitable business from their home without the need to invest a lot of money and take large financial risks. The financial requirements of running the business are rather minimal when compared to other types of businesses, but there are some necessary expenses that need to be considered.
When determining how much money you’ll need to earn as a full-time freelancer don’t forget to factor in the expenses. Some common expenses include hosting, marketing/advertising, software, computers and equipment (which you probably already have, but will need to be replaced eventually), and office supplies.
7. Don’t Consider Taxes
Most designers and freelancers are not experts at taxes, and why would you be? My advice is to hire an account who is experienced at working with small business owners and freelancers, and seek some guidance before even going into full-time freelance work. Your tax situation can be quite different when moving from full-time employment to full-time freelance work, so anything you can do to avoid surprises will improve your chances of success.
Before I quit my full-time job I met with an accountant and he ran estimates based on a few different scenarios, based on varying amounts of income. That information helped enough to give an idea of what to expect and how much to set aside from taxes, and one of those estimates wound up being almost dead one for that first year.
If you’re moving from part-time freelancing towards full-time freelance work we have an ebook specifically on this subject in the members area of Vandelay Premier. See Part-Time Freelance to Full-Time Freelance: A Guide for a Successful Transition.
Published January 14th, 2011 by Steven Snell