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What you need to know before becoming a full-time freelancer

Photo by Blake Wisz
Image: Blake Wisz /

Although we haven’t been in a recession in almost a decade, many people still struggle to find or keep the jobs that truly fit their passions. College students graduate and take jobs they may not want or may be under-qualified for, just to make sure they’re getting paid. As a result, many people have been turning to entrepreneurship and freelancing.
Starting your own business and “being your own boss” has a number of benefits, but it also takes a lot of work. Many people don’t realize what goes on behind the scenes of freelancing. It’s more than you may think. If you’re thinking about starting a business, no matter the field, here’s what you should know before becoming a full-time freelancer.

Freelancing is difficult

Surprise! Freelancing is actually really hard. Not only do you have to make your own schedule, but you also have keep up with the finances, work with clients, and actually do all your freelance work. Whether you’re a photographer, a blogger, or a social media manager, it’s not easy. Many people think that because you’re the boss, you can do anything and live carefree, but it’s usually more stressful than you might expect. You may be the boss, but you’re also every other employee and business partner for your company. You wear a lot of hats, so you do a lot of work.

Be okay with working alone

Freelancing can be great because you don’t have to deal with coworkers, but it can also be incredibly lonely. Most freelancers spend an obnoxious amount of time cooped up in a room with just their computer and their dog for company. If you do decide to become a freelancer, recognize that a lot of your time will be spent with you, not a bunch of other people. If you’re more of an extrovert, it may be helpful to create a company that needs another person or two to work with you. If you’re an introvert, this may be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for to work on your own.

Your taxes are more complicated than everyone else’s

I wish someone had told me how much more intricate my freelance taxes would be when I started. Because you don’t have an employer, you are responsible for your finances in a different way than your non-freelance friends. You have to keep track of your expenses, your payments, and sometimes even the miles you drive. Plus, if you’re like me and you have money coming in from multiple freelance projects, you might have a number of different types of income. Definitely take some time to figure out how to do your freelance taxes before you fully commit to this way of life.

Get your name out there

As a freelancer, it’s your job to get work. That means you need to spread the word about your business and make sure you get clients. It may mean you spend a little more time building a social media presence or getting business cards or just telling your friends to hire you. But more than that, it means putting yourself out there and broadcasting who you are. Freelancing takes a lot of initiative, and you can’t sit around waiting for clients to find you.

You aren’t the boss – your clients are

“But you’re the boss! Can’t you give yourself some time off?” Contrary to popular belief, freelancers do have bosses, but those bosses change constantly. Our bosses are the clients who hire us. While you may have the ability to choose when you wake up or when you start working on a project, most of the time the client will dictate almost everything else. They will boss you around, even if they’re nice about it. Being a freelancer means getting used to critique and understanding that just because a client wants to change something, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad freelancer. Most of the time, they just have a certain thing in mind, and they need to tell you about it so they get what they want. As they say, the client is always right.

Look for other freelancers

You may not know this, but freelancers tend to travel in packs. While we may not always work in the same room or do the same exact things, we do tend to flock together to create community online. If you’re starting your own business, a great way to maintain your sanity and get advice is to find freelancers who are similar to you. Follow them on Instagram, email them or message them to get to know who they are, and make friends. You’ll find yourself much happier if you have a community of people who are doing the same thing you are. Don’t think you have to do it alone.

Don’t give up

As stated previously, freelancing is hard. It is definitely not for everyone, and some people will crack under the stress it creates. However, that doesn’t mean you should quit. Some of the happiest people I know are freelancers, mainly because they’re working hard at doing what they love. Success doesn’t matter as much when you turn your hobby or your passion project into a career. Don’t let anything hold you back, and don’t give up. Freelancing can change your life!

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