Freelancer's Guide

An Introduction

The life of a freelancer can be quite rewarding and allows for different perks that you might not get in an office setting. Choosing to freelance can be a very hard decision to make and there are a lot of things to consider. You’ll gain freedom, but lose healthcare. You’ll be in-control of the work you do, but the work isn’t always steady. You’ll probably get paid more, but your taxes will be high and very confusing. Freelancing isn’t for everyone, but for some it is very rewarding in multiple ways.

Here is a short list of tips and considerations that I have compiled over my 5 year career as a freelancer. Hopefully they will help you make your new freelancing life a little easier and get you off on the right foot.

Before you even make your decision you need to lay your foundation and consider the following things.

  1. Be honest with yourself and consider the realities of being a freelancer. While being your own boss is nice, there are also a lot of harsh realities to consider. You’ll need to be self-motivated to find work, complete work, and follow through with your clients. You’ll need to be ok with working alone or with new people all the time. And you’ll need to be self-sufficient as you will no longer have a studio/agency team to back you up and take care of all the little things. Are you able to work at home and resist doing the dishes, find new clients, finish that work by the deadline, and chase after that client that never paid you, all in the same day? If so, you may be able to make freelancing work for you.
     
  2. Have a clear view of what you are good at and what it is that you want to do. Pick a discipline (advertising, digital, illustration, branding) and go forth in that direction. If clients are not able to determine what service you provide they will be less likely to hire you. Next, really consider your skill-level and be certain of the value and expertise you can bring to your clients. If you do not have a focus and a high-level of expertise, running a successful freelance business may be difficult.
     
  3. Line up your work while you currently have a job, and be sure to have a good amount in savings. This will allow you to get a running start when you make the switch. Having a client base established before you start freelancing will ensure you have work as soon as you transition. And having a bit of a nest egg will prevent you from making panicked decisions that can jeopardize your career.

If 1 through 3 all look good and you’ve decided that maybe the freelance life is right for you, then you should be prepared to tackle these next things pretty much immediately.

  1. You’ll need to figure out healthcare. When you leave your job you also leave your healthcare plan. You have to sign up for an independent healthcare plan. Know that you’ll likely be paying $200 or more a month just for yourself, depending on your plan and where you live.

  2. Your taxes will be much different now, so you’ll need to do your financial planning differently. I highly recommend getting an accountant to help you with your taxes and financial planning. It is very easy to get a big check from a client and then want to spend it all. They will be able to help you with write-offs, business structuring, quarterly taxes, and will definitely tell you not to spend that entire check because the government will want a lot of it back for taxes.

  3. Some freelancers work on-site for their clients and never really need an office space, but if you’re not that type of creative then having a dedicated space to work will be a must. The home office is an obvious choice, but for some people this can be lonely or very distracting. Co-working spaces can be a good alternative as you will get all the perks of working in an office, while still being your own boss. And if you’re looking for something a bit cheaper than a co-working space, there’s always the coffee shop. Whatever your preference, chose a work space that can keep you focused.

There are many more steps to take when building and maintaining a freelance business; everything from how to maximize your downtime, to getting bigger jobs as an independent creative, to deciding what type of business you want to have, and whether or not it’s ok to work in your pajamas every day. This is only the beginning.