October 2, 2013 Jason

Is a Career in Freelancing Right for You?

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It’s no secret. I LOVE freelancing. Is it because I get to work in my pajamas all day? Well, that’s not the only reason. Is it because I’m difficult to work with and can’t handle a “regular” work environment? Uh, perhaps that’s a contributing factor, but again, there’s more. Is it because I see the potential benefits for employers and contractors, and the opportunity to create a win-win-win situation? Yeah, it’s probably that one.

While there’s a ton of freedom that comes with the freelance lifestyle, there’s still a fair bit of work if you want to stay in it for the long term. First, you need to find clients. Then you need to demonstrate to them how you can benefit their business, and why you’re a better option than hiring a new employee. After that, you’ve got invoicing and bookkeeping, self-promotion, and personal projects. Balancing it all is the key to success (and sanity.)  Like any business, stuff happens. Your client might fire you, or you might fire them. They might grow beyond your capabilities, or vice versa. The beautiful thing is, if you’ve structured things well, losing one client isn’t going to change your world drastically, versus losing your job in a traditional environment, which can be personally and financially devastating. If you’re not afraid of working hard, the freelance life might be a good choice for you.

How does an employer benefit by choosing a freelancer instead of an employee?

Productivity and Scalability

When you hire an employee to work on site, it’s not realistic to think they will be productive for every hour they’re working. There will be meetings, discussions, illness, and other regular interruptions in their work week. With an on-site employee, the business is paying for 40 hours, but they’re not getting 40 hours of productivity. With a freelancer, if you pay for 40 hours of work, you get 40 hours of work. Or more.

While productivity is important, scalability is probably a bigger deciding factor. Your business might have an immediate need to ramp things up to meet an expected or unexpected demand, but this might be a short-term need, and hiring someone you know you’ll need to layoff (or fire) in a few weeks or months is a difficult decision. Add in the cost of training them to do the job, and you’re not getting the best bang for your buck. For the most part, freelancers are going to be able to do the job you need with minimal additional training required. This “contingency employment” solution is catching on, and this is great for employers and freelancers.

My prediction for the near future is:  more employers opting for a freelance/contractor instead of hiring fulltime or part-time on-site solutions.   

If you’re interested in learning more about freelancing and how you can set yourself up for success, I’m hosting a 3-part course at Royal Roads University. The class begins on November 19th, 2013, and runs until December 3rd. Three Tuesday evenings, from 6:30pm until 9:30pm, so you can prepare yourself to enter the freelance market. We will be discussing topics that are relevant across all genres: examining ways to find new clients, effectively using tools to reduce your unbillable hours, and other topics that you would typically learn the hard way. The course is $95+ GST, and you can register through RRU here.

Photo credit: morguefile.com

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