This week, we’re starting a new series called “Dear MANMAN.” If you have questions about what it’s like to freelance, how to get started or how to be successful, write us! Even if we don’t use your question on the blog, we’ll always write you back!
I have a lot of friends who are freelancers and I’ve recently been thinking about taking the plunge. How do I know if it’s right for me?
Hiey! Thanks so much for reaching out (and congrats on pondering your future! Fuuuuun!).
This is one of those questions that I didn't even think about before I went freelance (I just assumed I would love it...yeep, did I get lucky!) It's also sometimes hard to realize the truth of how things will REALLY be until you are already in the moment. No one wants to talk about the unglamorous and mundane everyday things (some of which will be a huge part of your new lifestyle), but I'm happy to take this time to clear up some of the fog for you!
IMO, being a freelancer does take a specific set of skills. In addition to being talented in your field, you also need to be excellent at communication, time management, organization and networking. And you need to be ok with doing them all, A LOT!!! I’ll go into more detail on each of these in future posts, but basically as a freelancer, you are your own account rep, finance, HR and probably most critical, your own salesperson.
For some people, the added responsibility is super fun...and for some, they hate it. To find out if you would enjoy freelancing and be successful, ask yourself these questions:
Can you make yourself go out and meet new people? You probably already have a few clients if you’re thinking about going freelance, but most clients will ebb and flow. The business will change over time, and you'll have to change with it. You've got to be ok with getting out there, making contacts and networking your ass off. It might sound exhausting, but for me, it's tons of fun (I get to meet so many new and cool people this way), and you might be surprised at how naturally it comes when you're passionate about what you're doing!
Can you sell yourself? That sounds kinda bad, haha, but you know what I mean. You are your own advocate. Tell everyone you know about what you do and how you want to grow. You never know who they might know or where your next job might come from. I’ve gotten jobs from my doctor, my friend's friend's friend, previous bosses and coworkers and even from my exterminator! You NEVER know where the next one is going to come from...so let your enthusiasm show!
Are you ok with working alone? Sure, you’ll have meetings and phone calls, but most freelancers I know spend the bulk of their day alone. I'm totally fine working alone (and actually NEED to when it's crunch time), but when I first started, I’ve got to be honest, it felt super lonely. That’s one reason I got Luna, my totes adorbs Boston Terrier, who is the best companion for a long workday! I also make it a point to schedule lunch dates and in-person meetings at least a couple times per week. Other times, I’ll work out of a buzzing coffee shop or with a creative friend or sometimes, just turn on the tv for background noise! XD
Do you like to answer emails and join conference calls? Because you’re going to be doing it A LOT. Email and texting will probably be your main forms of communication (at least they are for me and most people I know), and people expect answers pretty quickly. You'll need to be good at checking your email regularly, responding in a timely manner and maintaining a professional tone.
Are you good at meeting deadlines? If you want to keep getting new work, you need to be damn good at time management. Things happen, and everyone has to miss a deadline or ask for an extension every once in awhile, but it should be few and far between. Also whenever you can, go above and beyond. It’s the whole over-achiever thing...clients love that! (who doesn’t?)
I hope that helps! In upcoming posts, I plan to share much more about my own journey into the freelance world—how I got here, what I’ve learned, and what I’m still struggling with. So stay tuned!
P.S. And if YOU have a question, send it my way! We keep all of our inquisitors "anonymous" just in case you're still at that full-time gig and haven't quite made the leap! :)