If you have dabbled a bit in freelance work or are thinking about making it your career, there are some important points to consider when it comes to taking the plunge! While not all of these will be true for everyone and even if you don’t resonate with these, that shouldn’t deter you from trying out freelance work if you are inclined, the following list includes many of the characteristics freelancers commonly report as being important to do well in their work. So without further ado, here are the signs you might be cut out for freelance work:
You can focus.
This is a big one. Yes, some procrastination is inevitable and there are some folks who work best under pressure so procrastination can become a motivational and even inspiring tool to get quality work done. However, for most people, translation and writing work takes several drafts and time to percolate which means that leaving everything to the last minute or working on multiple projects simultaneously (thereby distracting you from all of them) means that your work can leave a lot to be desired. You have to be able to make lists of priorities and execute those items according to what is the most needed and most urgent. Spreading yourself too thin over a number of tasks or getting distracted by other things is a recipe for a mess!
You can be many different things to many different people.
Being a freelance translator does not mean that you will only be freelance translating. It also means that sometimes you are doing marketing work, networking and outreach, administrative assistant work, book-keeping, accounting and so forth. You have to be able to move between these positions fairly seamlessly and according to the contexts in which you find yourself.
You are willing to cultivate relationships.
The importance of being willing to cultivate long-term relationships with clients, businesses, organizations and groups that are relevant to your area of work cannot be underestimated. You don’t have to be a networking all-star but you do have to keep on top of community events you are invited to, social media interactions and the like. Frankly, this task is easier now than ever before because connection with others can be had at the click of a mouse.
You can conquer “impostor syndrome”. You believe in yourself and your work.
Being paralyzed by fear or perfectionism will only make your work harder and more stressful. Be open to constructive feedback and be sure to always check your work, but don’t become obsessed with every single detail. You should be able to produce polished work without having an emotional weighing of your self-worth tied to it. Remember you are a trained professional with skills and expertise to offer. If you don’t know something, learn it or admit it and move on!
You believe the rewards of freelance work outweigh the risk.
Freelancing is not without risks – particularly a sense of job security and perhaps a steady paycheque. But if you are willing to trade those things for all the benefits of being your own boss, being able to work from anywhere in the world, and choosing what work you put out into the world, you are unlikely to be disappointed. Plus if you have been making fairly decent money on the side for a while from freelancing, taking the plunge might not be so scary after all. Just imagine how much ore work you could get by focusing on what you do entirely.
You are willing to do *some* things for free.
This is a touchy subject but it is important to realize that there are plenty of things you will do to manage your business that you aren’t directly paid for. Unless you are making loads of cash, you are unlikely to be able to pull a salary from your profit to pay yourself for the management of the business beyond the actual freelance work itself. Returning emails, taking calls, arranging meetings and the like are all things that you can’t really invoice someone for. Depending on how you bill, whether by word or by hour, there is the chance that you can factor some of that overall time into how you do invoice though. It is important to measure how long you spend doing unpaid/non-invoiced work for your business because if you end up losing out of deals because you are spending so much time doing the nitty-gritty, it might be worth your while to subcontract some of that out to someone else.
You have healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with stress.
There is going to be a time when all things converge at once and you are going to feel like you have to stay up until 2am every night for over a week to get everything done. How you deal with this matters. One of the number one reasons that folks leave the freelancing world is that they are unable to cope with the unique stresses it brings: from accommodating difficult client requests to feeling like you are working around the clock, from feeling like you can never clock out to giving up any semblance of a weekend. Be good about setting time boundaries so your work doesn’t bleed into every aspect of your life including recreational and family time. Make sure you can recognize when things start to get too hair for you and you need to take a breather. Figure out ways that you can make things more manageable, and know when to approach clients for more time, if needed.
You know how to say “No.”
This is another big one…especially when you are first starting out. Who wants to turn down work? At the same time, we can’t all do everything. We have areas of specialization and work-life balance to consider, among other things. Your limits are really up to you. Spend some time thinking about what you are doing with your life and your goals for the year or five-year period. Is the work you are doing helping you to achieve those goals?
You work well solo from home.
Most freelancers work from home or in public spaces like coffeeshops or libraries. Some get to the point of being so busy that they are able to rent an office space to meet clients and complete their work at. For the rest of us, working well, solo, from home is crucial to our success. If it really bothers you to be alone all the time, consider going to a monthly meet-up of freelancers for coffee where you can share your experiences and network, or meet a fellow freelancer for a work session at a coffee shop – just make sure you don’t end up distracting each other too much!
You have developed organizational methods that work for you.
There are plenty of other signs that a career in freelancing could be for you but ultimately you are the best determiner of that fact. What works for one freelancer, doesn’t work for everyone and over time, you will develop the organizational methods that work best for you. Some freelancers work best with a paper wall calendar and to-do lists on sticky notes, others are digital all the way. Whatever keeps you on track and ensures that your work gets done on-time and well is what you should stick with!