More than 30 Things You Have to Know about being a Freelancer

Posted on July 13, 2010

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Wanting to be a freelancer? – there are many things you need to be aware of. In this article I will list many things for you to think through and consider before jumping into the freelance business. I hope this list will be a valuable tool for you to evaluate the current situation and being prepared for possible challenges along the way.

It’s hard work

Picture by Zsuzsanna Kilian

If anyone tell you otherwise, they’re wrong. It’s that simple. So if you’re looking for an easy option to a normal day job, freelancing is not for you.

You won’t be rich in a day or two

You can be 100% sure that going over to freelancing wont make you rich overnight. There are possibilities of making a decent living, yes, but it will take hard work over time.

Most people can’t make a living from freelancing right away

If you start freelancing thinking that it will give you a good paycheck from week one, that’s very unlikely. Because of this, my tip is to consider combining it with either a part-time job to begin with, a loan of some kind or the best option – that you have savings you can live from for a while. If you are able to live from the first paycheck you get, then good for you – but it’s very rare.

Working harder than a regular employee to receive the same results

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When you freelance you will have to consider many different aspects of everything you do. This means extra work and extra hours to output the same amount of work that you’d do at a normal job.

You have to be your own boss

As wonderful as it may sound to work alone, it means you will have to do the job your boss did before, and more. You will have to be a bit hard on yourself at times to make sure that things get done the right ways and to the right times.

No one will kick you out of bed in the mornings

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As mentioned, you will have to be your own boss. This also means that no one will kick you out of bed in the morning. You will need discipline and still continue to get up early to start doing your daily tasks – just as you would have done when you had to go to your normal workplace. This is a point that quickly will show if you have the required backbone to deal with it. Many wannabe freelancer fall out of it already here.

You have to stay on top of every financial matter

Even if you haven’t had to deal with any financial stuff before, you will have to now. Obviously you could hire someone to help out with this, but that costs money. So at least in the beginning you should aim to do as much as possible of this yourself. Not only should you do this to save money, but also to keep on top of things. You want to know what everything costs to make good calculations of how much you have to earn to be able to pay your bills and also make a profit that you can live from.

It takes hard work to gain a reputation

Being a freelancer, and a new freelancer, your name won’t immediately have the same ring to it as a company name. This means that it’s not likely clients will come running to you. You will have to gain a good reputation through hard work in order for them to choose you in the future.

Every single client counts more

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For a multimillion dollar company, you could say that a single client doesn’t necessarily mean everything. For you as a freelancer though, every client counts. Remember this when you take on new projects and treat them thereafter. One client more or less can mean the difference between failure and success – every single month.

You have to save for rainy days

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To save for slow times means a lot. When you’re a regular employee you know that your paycheck comes at given dates and how much you will get paid. Being a freelancer is completely different. If you don’t have any money in the bank in month with few paid projects, this could mean the end of your freelancing career.

You won’t automatically be insured (for injuries, sickness and so on)

Depending on your region/country you will have to check out what kinds of insurance you can/should have. When you’re an employee, the company you work for have to have some sort of insurance that makes sure you get paid almost no matter what happens. Being a freelancer this responsibility falls on yourself. Different countries have different options, so make sure to check this out BEFORE you start-up.

You need somewhere to work from

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When you’re employed somewhere, you know where to go to work. You don’t have to pay for electricity, phone bills or furniture. Now though, you will have to consider these things. Before you start-up you need to think through where you will be working from to make sure you can actually afford it. A home office or some sort of office collaboration can many times be the cheaper solutions to begin with.

It can be hard to set the limit between work and hobby

If you’re going for working freelance, one of the reasons for doing this will quite likely be that you will be able to do what you love. This means that you sometimes will be doing work-related things very many hours of each day. This can mean many challenges, remember to try not to get burned out..

YOU have to pay for repairs

When something gets broken, you can’t go to your boss to get it fixed. You will have to do whatever it takes to get it fixed, and most importantly be able to pay for it.

YOU have to pay for new equipment

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Just like with repairs, you will also have to be able to pay for new equipment when it’s needed. In some cases insurances could cover things that can’t be properly repaired but don’t count on it.

The first 3-6 months will be REALLY hard

At least the 3-6 first months will be extra hard. Not only do you have to adjust to a completely new way of working and thinking – but you need to get a base of clients that have work for you to do. You have to be prepared, both mentally and financially.

At times you’ll be at work 24/7

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When you are a freelancer YOU ar your business. This means that if something doesn’t get finished within the regular work hours you’ve set, YOU will be the one that needs to step in and get it done in time. Sometimes this could mean that you for days can be working almost 24/7.

You have to always think ahead

When you’re a regular employee, someone else usually does the planning. Freelancing you have to make plans ahead all the time to make sure to get enough time for reaching deadlines.

You will have to do things you don’t like

You probably choose your freelance career to be doing something you love. This doesn’t mean that you will always be doing only fun things. Every now and then you will have to do projects you find extra challenging, or sometimes even static and boring to make ends meet.

You will have to deal with difficult clients

We are all different. When you freelance you are always the one being in touch with every single client and they are also very different in personalities and in how they prefer to get things done. Not everyone will like you and vice versa, that’s just the way it is. Try to deal with that as smoothly as possible.

You have to think through what you say (and don’t)

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You are your own business’ face outwards. This means that you will more than ever before be having to think through things before you say them. Remember that a single sentence said without being thought of can possibly ruin contracts and have you lose valuable income.

Prepare to work longer hours for less pay…for a long time

Picture by Nick Colomb
When you work for yourself you will see that you many times get less paid for every actual hour worked. This is because clients pay for what you do for them and not for your own accounting and planning. Thankfully though, you will be able to adjust your rates to fit this over time. But in the beginning it will be hard. So don’t give up right away.

All markets have ups and downs

Depending on your niche/market you will experience some ups and downs due to changes in the market. This isn’t anything you can do much about other than actually being prepared as good as possible.

Not all people understand that freelancing actually is hard work

Don’t expect everyone to understand what it’s like to do your work. Many new freelancers experience communication problems with family and friends who think freelancing is easy money and little work. It can also many times be hard for them to understand when you’re working and not. Make sure to do all you can to be prepared for this.

There are many laws/rules you have to read up on

It’s rarely as easy as just deciding what you want to do with your business and starting to do it. In most countries there are rules and regulations on many aspects of various businesses. You have to figure out what will apply to you so that you can do things they way they’re supposed to be done.

Taxes and VAT can have special rules in your country, make sure you know them!

Just as with all other rules and regulations there are rules for how to pay taxes and more. If you don’t know these you could be in for a very expensive surprise. This could eventually cost you your business.

You always need to have a plan B

Picture by Flaviu Lupoian

What many times separates the best from the rest, is the ability to adapt to challenges. This means that you have to keep a plan B ready at all times. What will you spend time on when there are slow days? What will you do if the client changes his mind about something in the last-minute and how will you be able to catch up lost hours if you get sick?

Slow times don’t mean less work, it often means more

If you have a day or three without paid projects, this definitely doesn’t mean that you can just sit back and relax. These are the days when you should do various other tasks, – both in order to get new clients and to take care of your own business. If you take advantage of these days it can mean an ocean of difference when the new projects start coming in again.

There are always many competitors

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When you enter the freelance world, you will quickly see that your competitors are many. This means that you can’t slack and expect for clients to stick to you. You always have to do your best and then some to be able to compete with everyone else.

You have to be able to make adjustments fast

Clients can require last-minute changes, meetings sometimes have to be rescheduled, you or the client can get sick for a few days. The options are many and you have to be able to adjust fast to make it.

Being a freelancer can be very expensive

As you probably understand from all these points, Freelancing can be quite expensive at times.

You will make more each hour, but also have more expenses

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Its easy math, but not always easy to remember. The bill your clients pay will equal a higher price each hour compared to what you get paid as a regular employee. Remember though, that this is supposed to cover for all your expenses.

You will have to say NO to some business opportunities

The ability to say No can prove to be a very important thing for you, or you will work 24/7 still not being able to finish everything. This will affect the quality of your work, your physical and mental health and your clients.

You will have to say NO to personal projects at times

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If something didn’t go according to plan and someone need to put in extra work last-minute to get something finished, that person would be you. This means that you will have to say No to many other things sometimes, that’s the hard reality of being a freelancer.
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