from guest writer, Heather Reimer…
Taking the Fear Out of Freelancing: Is Self-Employment Right For You?
Janine was thirty-something and the mother of one when her marriage broke up. She moved to a new city and started looking for a good paying job with parent-friendly hours and was getting frustrated with how rare those positions are.
A friend suggested she consider shopping her language translating skills as a freelancer so she could work at home and watch her daughter grow up. Janine liked the idea but couldn’t imagine taking the financial risk of fending for herself and her child. Fear and insecurity stopped her in her tracks.
But wait… What if the risk really isn’t as great as we think it is. There sure are a lot of people working for themselves these days. What do they know that we don’t?
The Self-Employment Facts
The US Census Bureau reports that there are now over 18 million self-employed entrepreneurs in America. These one-person operations make up a remarkable 70% of all US businesses.
So who are these brave souls turning their backs on the cubicle farm and doing it for themselves? Everyone from accountants to writers.
The Census Bureau says the fastest growing self-employed sectors these days are: real estate appraisers, nail technicians, landscaping services, software publishers, and bed and breakfast owners.
But there are plenty more choices out there to satisfy the maverick in you.
The Satisfaction Factor
A survey of freelance writers published in 2005 by the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) painted a surprising
picture of the “average” freelance writer. She is:
Female, 49 years old, white, married with at least one child. She is
well educated and lives in a large city. She is usually paid by the item
and makes an annual income between $40,000 and $49,000.
Now here’s the surprise… in spite of that modest average income, over 90% of those surveyed said they considered freelancing their long-term career and were very satisfied with their self-employed lifestyle!
In fact, most of the survey participants had quit regular jobs in order to become freelancers. They weren’t laid off or fired. They quit. And were glad they had.
The Ups and Downs of Self-Employment
Having said all that, self-employment is not for everyone. But I’m willing to bet it would actually be a good fit for a lot of people if they weren’t so afraid of the perceived risks.
So let’s deal straight up with the realities of the freelance/self employed life so you can make an informed decision about your future without any unwarranted fears or unrealistic expectations.
- It can be hard to get established. Freelancers surveyed by ASJA said it took at least five years of networking and cold calling before they felt settled in the writing business.
- Micro enterprises (those with fewer than 5 employees) have lower survival rates than other small businesses. This may be because they require less investment so owners take greater risks rather than research the business model thoroughly in advance.
- Work fluctuations. It’s often feast or famine when it comes to jobs, and that can lead to…
- Financial uncertainties, which can be relieved with a lot of…
- Self promotion. Marketing yourself is an ongoing necessity for freelancers.
- Setting your rates and/or negotiating fees with clients. It can take years to figure out what the market will pay for your time and expertise.
- Taking care of your own pension, taxes, unemployment and health safety nets.
- The fridge, TV and coffee maker. Working at home means resisting a torrent of sweet distractions.
The Pay Offs:
- No bosses or annoying coworkers.
- No cubicles, harsh fluorescent lighting or recirculated air.
- No set schedule. Work when you want and as much (or as little) as you want.
- Work at home, save on commuting costs and business attire.
- You pick the jobs. If you don’t feel like designing a porn website or being a virtual assistant for your ex-husband’s company, just say no – it feels great.
- The best reason of all: That glorious feeling of self-determination.
Of course, living like this does require certain skills to make it work: discipline, the ability to live on a modest income, at least for a time, the willpower to set some money aside for the doldrums, the ability to work alone without missing society too much, and the faith in yourself to endure the slow times knowing the jobs WILL come again.
Oh yeah, and it helps if you genuinely love the work you’ve chosen. That and a rainy day fund will get you through any drought.
Facing Down Your Fears
I caught up with Janine not too long ago. Turns out she got a job in a government office making not bad coin. But the work is boring; she isn’t using her training at all and they don’t give her the authority to make any decisions. Plus she had to hire a full-time nanny, so her paycheck isn’t going very far these days. But hey… it’s a regular salary, right?
When the time comes for you to choose between a salary and self-employment, don’t let fear and insecurity decide for you.
Do an honest evaluation of your personality and skill set to know if you’ve got the freelancing stuff.
Check your bank account to see how long you can coast without an steady income if need be. Better yet, explore ways you can slowly ease into self-employment while you hang onto the paying job.
Do thorough research on the type of business you plan to launch to ensure it’s a good fit and there’s a viable market for it.
If you need financing, write up a plan. You can view sample business plans for various industries here:
Then look forward to the happy day when you can cut that final apron string and become your own boss. Sound planning and self knowledge can take the fear out of self-employment.
Heather Reimer is a self-employed copywriter and owner of The Write Content. She offers website content writing services, search engine copywriting, and article writing. For a free content analysis and proposal, visit: www.thewritecontent.com/freereport.html