When I started as a freelancer a couple of years ago, I had no idea that this will become my full-time occupation and my major source of income. I started out of sheer curiosity but now I feel I have found the right job for me.
Being a freelancer can vary from great (as is in my case), to so-so (as is for many people), to devastating (as is for those who do not qualify to be their own boss). I don’t mean to insult anybody but being a freelancer is not for everybody. The fact that freelancing is fashionable or that you have heard of somebody, who has made a lot of money from freelancing, is hardly a serious motive for you to jump into the deep waters.
I have noticed that I am a role model for many people. While this is sometimes kind of flattering, I am usually annoyed when somebody copies my ideas and actions and later comes on sobbing that I have misled him or her. Yes, I know many people who have tried to make a living out of freelancing and who have failed because their judgment about their skills was somehow inadequate. In my opinion, some of the reasons why people fail as freelancers are as follows:
1.Lack of skills. When you have a full-time, 9-5 job you develop the skills required for this position and more or less you forget everything else, because you simply don’t need it. But when you work as a freelancer, you can rarely afford such a narrow specialization, even if there are a lot of projects, which require exactly the skills you currently have. No, I don’t mean that you should know 10 programming languages, 5 databases and operating systems, PhotoShop, Flash, and every other major technology on Earth in order to be a successful freelance programmer but you do need to know a lot and to maintain yourself it top shape. So, if you are not willing to constantly update your “knowledge base”, then a 9-5 job might be the better choice.
2.Inability to communicate. I work mainly with technical people and it is true that most of them do not know how to communicate effectively. Of course, there are many exceptions to the rule but generally speaking, the majority of people who have the technical skills for freelancing, have no sales and marketing skills, which are equally important. Sales, marketing and communication skills as a whole might be a small portion of the skills you need but without them all your technical expertise is void.
3.Time management and other organizational issues. Being your own boss means that you have to manage effectively your schedule. I admit that even for well-organized people “Deadline” is a dreaded word and often a deadline = a missed deadline but when you simply don’t know how to work, when you are most effective, how much workload you can handle, etc., failure is round the corner.
4.Poor English. English is the international language. Well, for many freelancers, who are not native speakers, this fact is not obvious. I am not a native speaker but I dare say my English is better than the English of many native speakers. That’s why I usually have no problems to communicate even the most complicated ideas. I just can’t understand how people, whose knowledge of English is pretty vague have the courage to use it as a business language. I have heard of so many cases when people take a project but they don’t understand the requirements well and are ashamed to ask (because they have to admit that they are not fluent in English). I guess the only possible outcome in such a situation is a mess, an unhappy (if not outright mad) client, and a freelancer, who is crying: “They screwed me again!”.
5.Your skills are not marketable as a freelancer. Finally, even if the above points do not apply to you, there is one more reason why freelancing is not the best choice for you – there are many skills, which are not marketable as a freelancer. If you are a writer, translator, programmer, designer, marketing guru, etc., then freelancing is the way to go. But there are many areas – i.e. such as telecom projects – where the projects are large, require many people and serious investments, you can’t do the job offsite, etc. Needless to say, if your skills are in such an area, then freelancing can’t offer you what you deserve.
The above list of reasons is hardly an exhaustive one. There are many more reasons to fail as a freelancer and I hope you will not learn them the hard way. However, I hope that even this short list has helped you to make up your mind whether freelancing is right for you or not.