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What It Takes to Go Freelance
If you have a knack for writing, graphic design, web coding, or other creative pursuits, then freelancing might be an appealing option.
No boss to bug you about TPS reports. No sweaty subway rides or gridlocked traffic during rush hour. You'd get to choose your hours and your projects, not to mention the convenience of working from home. But before you give up corporate America and dive into full time freelance work, use this checklist to see if you're ready.
Experts suggest that you save up at least six to twelve
months of living expenses before you leave your day job.
Working full time and freelancing on the side is a good way
to build up your bank account and get a taste of the
freelance life to see you'd like to do it full time. If you
do decide to go straight from college to freelancing, then
you might want to consider working somewhere part time to
cover a few of your expenses. It can take several months to
get a steady roster of clients, and, unfortunately, not all
clients pay on time. Your income may fluctuate month to
month, so cutting out extras like cable TV or satellite radio
is a smart move until you have a steady stream of
The high cost of individual health insurance scares a lot of
people who'd like to freelance. It's an important
consideration, because if you are uninsured and develop a
serious (usually unexpected) illness or injury, then your
hospital bills can quickly run into the thousands. But you
have a few options. If you are married or cohabitating with a
significant other, then you might be able to sign up with
their plan. Some states, including Massachusetts, offer
health insurance at reduced rates to those who are
self-employed or earn below a certain income level. Also
check with professional organizations like the Freelancer's
Union(http://www.freelancersunion.org/) or your local Chamber of
Commerce, since these types of organizations offer lower cost
health insurance to members.
Some people need the structure of an office to keep them on task. Otherwise, they'll get too distracted by Facebook, Twitter, daytime TV, the laundry, and anything but the project that's due the following day. And as a freelancer, you won't get paid if you don't produce something for your client. Try setting artificial deadlines for yourself (marking Wednesday as the deadline on your calendar instead of Friday) or disabling your internet when you're on deadline. If you're working full time and you're unsure about your level of self-discipline, set aside a holiday or vacation day to see how much you can produce in a day. It will also give you a taste of what it's like to work on your own projects for the whole day instead of in spurts.
Many people leave the 9-5 grind so they can focus on more
creative pursuits, but as they quickly discover, being a
freelancer requires an awful lot of paperwork. Everything
from invoices to independent contractor agreements to
receipts expenses all have to be carefully organized, not
just for tax purposes but also to ensure that you're actually
making a profit. You don't necessarily need fancy invoicing
software (often a simple spreadsheet will do), but you should
be honest with yourself about whether you can realistically
manage the paperwork yourself. Hiring a part time assistant
to scan samples, print out invoices, or send in your
quarterly tax payments could help you boost productivity.
Think about it: if you get paid $50/hour to do web design,
paying an assistant $12/hour to do your filing is a
worthwhile investment if it means more billable hours for
you. And come tax time, an accountant who is familiar with
the tax implications of being a freelancer or small business
owner is well worth the expense.
You can choose whether you'll cold call potential clients,
send out postcards, or set up a blog, but marketing your
freelance talents is essential, especially in the beginning.
If you enjoy going to networking events and handing out your
business card, then you'll be a natural self-promoter. More
introverted freelancers can network effectively by
participating in online forums for their industry or asking
colleagues for referrals to new clients.
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