Working freelance is the dream for most, isn’t it? Flexible contracts to work around your other commitments, day rates which are well in excess of a permanent salary and lots of different projects/brands to keep things interesting and expand your experience…
I’ve seen the permanent market tighten at a senior level over the last 6 months and I’ve spoken to plenty of candidates about the prospect of going interim or freelance. With less senior permanent roles around, this seems like a great idea until the country sorts itself out, right?
It’s not always the case. There are plenty of things to weigh up before taking the plunge into the freelance world and a lot of people simply cannot hack it for very long. It’s often a lonely existence and the insecurity of not knowing where the next contract is coming from can be very stressful. It’s also more difficult to get back into a permanent role after a period of freelancing as there are plenty of (misguided!) biases towards candidates who have taken this path in their career.
I’m all for it if you can make it work but there are some real questions to ask yourself before taking this step. The people whom I have met and spoken to over the years who have been able to do it for a prolonged period of time have all or most of the below:
Great network – This is number one. If you are thinking about going freelance, start networking! Keep in touch with previous colleagues, bosses and start speaking to other freelancers. As much as I would love to say otherwise, at least 50% of positions that contractors pick up are through their own network or a recommendation.
Flexibility – This goes against the grain of the blissful idea of freelance life. The contracts won’t all be on your doorstep and you will need to be seeing your clients or be in the office from time to time. If you are picking up work in London for example, this will likely include some overnight stays. If you are going freelance to drop down to, say 3 days per week, understand that these three days might not all be at home if it’s going to make sense financially.
Financial Security – Yes, the day rates are better than salaried positions in interim but this is often offset by the time between contracts. Sadly, you can also expect to be chasing invoices and waiting a while for payment on occasions, particularly from bigger businesses which is a topic for another day.
The bottom line is that freelancing is a fantastic thing to do if you can. The variety of work and the experience gained will broaden your horizons but it’s not the relaxed, flexible lifestyle that people imagine it to be a lot of the time. As a ‘gun for hire’ you’ll spend a lot of time working alone and this, combined with the questions of financial security are the main reasons why people give it up. Before you do it, ask yourself what you want to get out of it and if you can tick off the bullet points above.