56.1 million Americans freelanced in 2018 according to research commissioned by Upwork and Freelancers Union. Freelancing has seen a steady rise in numbers over the years and I don’t think this way of working is going anywhere anytime soon. So you might be wondering: Why freelance?
In a previous post I gave you all a rundown of what kind of work goes into freelancing. Now that you’ve got an idea of the workload, I’d like to talk about the pros of freelancing. That is, why so many people choose to freelance, despite the sometimes grueling load.
If you’ve been working at your job for a while and feel like you’ve hit a ceiling, freelancing might be your next step. People simply aren’t staying in jobs as long as previous generations typically did. There’s a lot of movement.
We do this for various reasons, one of those being opportunities to step up the corporate ladder. Another company may see your growth potential and offer you that next step if it isn’t available to you where you are. Or you might decide to strike out on your own.
Choosing to freelance, for me, was that next step. There was still growth potential for me where I was, but I didn’t really see myself stepping into the roles that would be coming available. And I was getting bored. Which is bad for engagement. Rather than looking for a position with another agency, I decided I would work for myself.
Job satisfaction also plays into this. And hear me when I say this — you don’t have to hate what you do for a living. It may sound silly to say that I freelance because I like it, but it’s the truth. If you’re not happy, make a change.
When you work for someone else, you do the work they give you. When you’re the boss, you have a different level of control over the work you take on. It’s incredibly freeing to be able to pick and choose. You still have to eat though, so it’s not like you can turn down every undesirable job. But, if you come across a client that really just chaps your rear, you can drop them.
Bonus: You don’t have to worry about office politics as a freelancer. And you know that coworker who just drives you bonkers? She or he is out of the picture when you step out on your own. Bye, Felicia!
Another piece of that freedom perk is being in complete creative control. You still have to meet your client’s needs, but you get to pour more of your own energy into projects and take them in the direction you feel is right.
It’s feels a little like removing your dog’s leash at the park and letting them run. If you’re feeling restrained by your current career, freelancing may be your next move.
You can work from home and set your own hours. You’re not tied to a 9-5 with strict vacation/time off/maternity leave policies and you decide which holidays you get off.
The trade-off is security. It means finding your own health insurance and providing for your retirement without the benefit of an employer provided 401k. But in the age of acorns and other investing, and insurance options, you can still provide for those needs without slaving for the man.
But that’s not the only way freelancing is flexible. Freelancers have the ability to adapt their services to what’s in demand a lot easier than large corporations can. If we’re just not getting enough work in one area of our industry, we will grab work in others.
Because of this, freelancers tend to have multiple skill sets. Very few just write or just edit or just whatever. Many offer a combination of services to keep themselves marketable. When writing slows down, bring on the editing jobs, and when editing slows down, bring on the social media projects, and so on.
I appreciate this kind of adaptability because it keeps me engaged and sharp. One thing is for sure, I’m never bored and I’m constantly learning as I work. It also makes me desirable should I decide to rejoin the corporate workforce later.
I don’t know if you keep an eye on the job market in your area (I do), but most open positions require multiple skill sets and candidates are expected to be prepared for a range of tasks. Freelancers are very competitive in this way.
I’m not going to claim you can get rich freelancing. In fact, to get started you’re probably going to go through some lean times. But the potential is there to build a lucrative business, or even just make some extra cash as a side gig.
Overhead tends to be very low for services — most of the money you’re bringing in is profit. Even accounting for reinvesting profits back into your business while it’s growing, you can make a tidy living.
Just keep in mind, that a good rule of thumb in the beginning is that at least 50% of your profits should be reinvested or kept in the bank to prepare for lean business cycles and keep you covered. So if you want to make $30,000 per year, you need to profit $60,000.
There are many ways to pay yourself as a freelancer, and my 50% rule isn’t hard and fast (and it doesn’t scale well). Once you start bringing in more money, you might be able to get away with taking a larger percentage for yourself.
And as your experience as a freelancer grows, so does your earning potential. You may start out charging $25 to $35 per hour, but once you’re established you can command $65 or more per hour, depending on the market and your industry.
Pro tip: Always be evaluating your pricing. You should probably be charging more than you are.
So why freelance?
In an age where technology makes it possible for more and more people to step outside of the office, freelancing just makes sense. There are plenty of reasons to take the leap, just be aware that like anything in life, it’s not a sure thing.
If you enjoyed this post, let me know in the comments! I’d also love to hear from those of you who already freelance — would you recommend it? Why or why not?