Freelance work has seen an increase in popularity over the years. And the image of freelancers as flaky, half-baked subcontractors has mostly been cleaned up.
The freelance labor pool is now more appealing to employers, and dipping into freelancing can be attractive to most employees. But are you in a position to make the most of this transition?
Gaining partial control
Many people turn to freelance work in search of greater control. Like running a business, they want to be their own boss and call the shots. And they can potentially get paid at a level commensurate with their individual capabilities and experience.
However, there are subtle differences between freelancing and entrepreneurship. It’s like driving a car and knowing how to troubleshoot it. A lot of people can drive, but not everyone is comfortable tinkering under the hood. The rest would be better off taking their vehicle to the auto mechanic shop.
Being an entrepreneur means you have to embrace every aspect of running a business. And business success comes from finding the right model. Thus, entrepreneurs have to devote more of their time and focus on finding passive income and revenue streams.
You make a choice when you work as a freelancer; do you love the work itself, or the profit-making side of things? If you lean towards the latter, you’re better off looking to hire people to do the work for you and focusing on the overall system.
But if you’re more comfortable doing the work, then you have to surrender some control. You still have to negotiate terms with clients. And you have to accept that sometimes, your sensibilities and opinions will be overridden by the vision and guidelines for a particular project.
Finding real upside
Thus, freelancing gives you, at best, a partial increase in control. But it offers bigger upsides in the form of choice and flexibility.
Within a project, you don’t get to call the shots. Even though you’re responsible for execution, your client might disagree with you on the details. Your output might be contingent on the work of other collaborators. But you can say no to all these things.
Unlike a regular job, you aren’t bound to work on whatever task an employer throws your way. You can choose your clients and think carefully before you sign a contract. Your evaluation process can factor in not just financial considerations, but other intangible things like passion and prestige. Will a project make your resume look more impressive? Does it align with your values and interests?
Choosing clients means you also get to dictate your workload. You can say goodbye to the 9-to-5. If you want to break up your work into 1-2 hour chunks and spread them throughout the day, or work the graveyard shift because you’re a night owl, do so. Or feel free to have a gap between projects so that you can enjoy your time and earnings.
Still, not everyone is ready to maximize these benefits of choice and flexibility. There are some steps you can take to put yourself in a better position and make the most of the shift to freelance work.
You have to be prepared to do a lot of preliminary research. Don’t limit your gig search to generalist sites like Upwork; find specialized boards and listings according to what you do. And while you can apply indiscriminately, especially if you’re just getting started, be sure to ask your client the right questions before signing any contract.
Keep in mind that the power of choice is at its best when your options are of high quality. You might not have a realistic shot at landing a client unless you have precisely what they’re looking for. This may be a matter of talent and resume building, but it could also mean developing soft skills or networking for a warm referral.
You’re also only as flexible as your discipline and time management will take you. And you won’t be able to align your freelance work with your passion if you aren’t sure of yourself. What do you want to achieve? What sort of work do you find meaningful?
Sometimes, you can answer these questions and hone these aspects on your own. But many people discover them through the often unpleasant grind of regular employment. Whatever it takes, make sure that you prepare yourself to reap the rewards of freelancing. Otherwise, you might be taking on a lot more hassle than its worth.