Tired of your micromanaging art director? Fed up with perfunctory paperwork? Hungry for more stimulating design projects? Many creative professionals who are frustrated by their full-time jobs or who long for more freedom ponder the perks of self-employment: no boss, no commute, no set hours, and no HR rules against wearing shorts to work.
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Going freelance can offer many professional advantages, but it’s important to go in with your eyes open. Following are five common freelancing myths — and the realities behind them — that you should be aware of before you hang out your shingle:
Myth #1: You’ll Work Less and Relax More
While they have more control over when and where they work, most successful freelancers will attest to working extremely hard and, in some cases, longer hours than they did when they were on someone else’s payroll. Building and managing a business single-handedly takes time. On the upside, freelancers do enjoy the freedom of working more flexible schedules and being able to focus on the types of projects they are most passionate about.
Myth #2: You’ll Spend All Your Time Designing
Yes, you’ll hold the title of chief design officer. But you’ll also be in charge of marketing, bookkeeping, information technology, office administration, quality control and more. If your Mac goes on the fritz, there’s no computer guy down the hall to fix it.
One solution to delegating these tasks is registering with a staffing firm. These companies handle most of the non-creative duties it takes to run a successful freelance business, from identifying project opportunities and marketing your talents to making sure you get paid.
Myth #3: You’ll Be Raking in the Dough
It’s certainly possible to see a spike in income once you go solo. Forty-five percent of advertising and marketing executives polled for The Creative Group Hiring Index for Marketing and Advertising Professionals said it’s challenging to find skilled creative professionals today. Those with the right mix of skills and experience can command top dollar and potentially earn more than they did working full-time.
Keep in mind, though, that any freelancer must carefully consider self-employment taxes and business expenses, which include everything from health insurance to paper and printer cartridges. Partnering with a staffing firm, however, can help you save on some of the administrative costs of running your own business; some even offer access to insurance and retirement programs, and other perks like holiday or vacation pay and free online training.
Myth #4: You Won’t Have to Answer to Anyone
You run the show as a freelancer, and you’re free to choose what you’ll work on and whom you’ll work for. But to build up and gain repeat business, you’ll need to be accommodating, accountable and responsive to your clients — all of whom may have different personalities, preferences, policies and pet peeves.
Prepare to compromise and adapt. Top-notch freelancers display a strong customer-service orientation and do everything possible to ensure clients derive maximum benefit from the relationship.
Myth #5: Your Stellar Design Skills Will Be Enough to Keep Clients Calling
Being a great designer is only half the battle. Networking and self-promotion is the other half. Build in ample time to get the word out about your service offerings and successes. Frequently update your website, blog or online portfolio and maintain an active social media presence. Enter design competitions, join professional associations and attend industry conferences. In addition, get to know other creative freelancers in your area. Connecting with independent writers, photographers and web professionals is a good way to gain both referrals and support.
Self-employment requires strategic thinking. To mitigate some of the inherent risks of going solo, consider easing into it on a part-time basis. Do your homework by talking with long-time freelancers about the lessons they’ve learned along the way. You also might reach out to an experienced staffing specialist who can help line up assignments for you, promote your services and give you a sense of current market conditions in your area.