Over the last couple of decades, the number of people that decide to become freelancers has skyrocketed. The Internet, more than anything else, made this possible, with writers-for-hire, marketers, web developers, graphic artists, designers and more seizing the opportunity to “do their own thing”.
What’s the Motivation?
To understand freelancers, we have to first consider their motivation for becoming self-employed. The desire for professional independence can take many forms. For some, it may be born in their tendency to bridle under direction by others, while others may simply feel that their creativity is stifled by too much regimentation. Some find that they work more efficiently without the distractions of a shared workplace and still more feel awkward or uncomfortable as part of a collective. Finally, there are many that make the change in order to be able to spend more time with their family.
And of course, we can’t forget the others that think that working solo is the path to untold riches and a two-day work-week. Boy, are they in for a disappointing realization!
Regardless of one’s motivation for transitioning from worker bee to freelancer, there are pros and cons that can (and likely will) affect them. For some, the adjustment is easy, while others never quite find their groove. Most fall somewhere in the middle… often yo-yoing between the two extremes.
How Strong is the Desire?
As is usually the case, a person’s ability to stick with a plan can depend upon a number of factors. The clarity of their goal, their dedication to and focus on achieving that goal, the difficulties they encounter, the support they receive, the perceived probability of success, their confidence in their own abilities – any or all of these will at some point affect a new freelancer. In fact, even those that have worked independently for many years will occasionally feel their effects.
The strength of their desire and level of commitment will be their main driving force. The more they want it, the easier it will be for them to maintain their efforts to achieve their goal. Unfortunately, too many people set out on the path to independence with poorly defined or unrealistic goals, which makes the transition much more difficult.
Defining a Realistic Goal
We’ve all heard about the importance of setting goals for ourselves. But “achieve financial independence” isn’t a goal… it’s an aspiration. To be effective, a goal must be achievable and measurable. “Achieve a $48K sustainable annual income” would be both achievable and measurable. But that goal can be made more meaningful by injecting a time element: “achieve a $48K sustainable annual income by the end of 2016”.
Putting Psychology to Work
Such a goal can be made still more effective by breaking it into smaller chunks. “Achieve a sustainable $4K monthly income by the end of 2016” offers a couple of additional benefits. It allows us to measure our progress toward the goal more often, thus letting us make any necessary adjustments to our efforts. Depending upon the nature of the business, this can even be broken into weekly packets.
The psychological effect can be significant, as well. Even if the above goal is on track, looking at a total year-to-date income of $12K at the end of March seems like a small amount of progress toward a $48K nut to crack. Seeing progress in smaller bits will have a more positive effect on us, even making shortfalls seem smaller. Don’t underestimate the ability of the mind’s subconscious to alter your mindset and determination. Frame of reference can be very important in keeping hope and determination alive.
Being Realistic About your Progress
It’s equally important to recognize at the outset that not every day will be stellar, not every week’s income will hit the mark and not every prospect will become a client. Clients can be lost… but others can replace them. You may come up a little short this month… but you can make it up (or exceed it) next month. Go into your freelancing foray knowing this, planning for it, and you’ll find that the inevitable pitfalls will affect you less.
As you move forward, look at your short-term and your long-range progress, so you get a better perspective. Odds are, you’ll find your predictions aren’t as accurate as you might have hoped. If they were too ambitious, adjust the goal (or the timeframe) accordingly, so you can get a more realistic view of your progress. The same holds true if they were too conservative. Progress doesn’t necessarily have to be easy… in fact, it should challenge you. As you get more practice at setting and fulfilling goals, your goal-setting will become more accurate.
One last thought – if you decide to become a freelancer so you’ll no longer have a boss, you should consider this: every client you have will now be your boss. You may be trading one for many.
If you still feel you’re up to the task, then go for it. And go full-bore!