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9 Questions to Ask Before Going Freelance

9 Questions to Ask Before Going Freelance

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    I’ve lost count of the number of articles I’ve seen recommending that folks take on freelance work to make ends meet during the current economic crisis. From keeping the wolf away from the door to working on top of a full-time job, I’ve seen freelancing cited as a panacea. It’s especially promoted to anyone working in a relatively creative field — not just writers and designers, but videographers and coders are being told that freelance is the way to go. I even spotted at article last month suggesting that sales reps should see if they could pick up a few bucks on a freelance basis.

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    In general, I think freelancing is a great option — but I also know that it isn’t for everyone. If you’re considering taking the freelance route, there are a few questions you need to be able to answer in the affirmative.

    1. Can you meet those deadlines?

    Freelancing is very deadline-oriented. A client can’t tell you when or where to work, but he can certainly tell you when your project needs to be done. That sounds like it wouldn’t be such a big deal, but think of it this way: if you’re taking on freelance projects just to keep money coming in while you hunt for something permanent, you can get into a little trouble if you actually find a new job. Will you actually have enough time to complete your projects after you’ve put in your time at your brand new day job?

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    2. Are you willing to give up your free time?

    If your freelancing hours are limited to after work, you may find yourself devoting all of your free time to your new projects. While that may not sound all bad, it can be a one way ticket to burnout unless you are very careful about your time management. After all, at least a little social interaction is necessary to keep most people happy.

    3. Can you find enough work?

    Don’t get me wrong — there’s plenty of freelance work out there these days, especially since many companies are turning to freelancers to cover their staffing needs after layoffs. But finding that work is a whole different matter. How much time can you afford to spend on checking job boards? Assuming you’re planning to freelance for more than just a few projects, you’ll want to put some marketing in place — a website with your portfolio and that sort of thing — but even basic marketing and job hunting can take up a lot of time.

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    4. Do you have a portfolio in place?

    Most freelancers rely on their portfolios, rather than resumes to get them hired. A prospective client wants to be able to take a quick look at your work — whether it’s a press release, a web application or a video — and decide on the spot whether he wants to work with you. That means you need to have a solid portfolio in place. True, you can find freelancing opportunities without a portfolio, but you’re pretty much guaranteed to make only a fraction of what you might otherwise.

    5. Are you going to make enough to meet your needs?

    Freelancing isn’t exactly a fast route to riches. In order to make enough to cover your needs, whether replacing a full-time job or covering unexpected expenses, you probably have an exact amount you need to be making in mind. When you consider the hours you have available to work, that number may not translate into a practical hourly rate — at least for a starting freelancer.

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    6. Can you wait for your money?

    The grand majority of clients do not pay their freelancers upon completion of a project. Instead, you’ll be looking at payment within a month of an arbitrary date (assuming you aren’t working with a big company that requires 60 or 90 days to pay invoices). That arbitrary date can be from the point of invoicing to the point of publication, depending on who you’re working with. Freelancing isn’t really the ideal option if you need the money by this weekend.

    7. Are you able to go to bat for yourself?

    If you’re used to working with a manager or supervisor, freelancing can come as a bit of a shock. Not only do you need to go out looking for your own work, but you also have to set timelines on your own and take care of invoicing and other paperwork. You can learn how to do all of these things, of course, but the learning curve isn’t exactly shallow.

    8. Is freelancing going to interfere with your commitments?

    Most clients expect to be able to communicate with freelancers during normal business hours. That can mean taking a call at your day job: that sort of situation is practically begging for an eventual problem. With some effort, you can work around these issues, but it can mean trouble that isn’t really worth it for the amount of money you’re bringing in.

    9. Can you be flexible?

    You might get a rush project that has to be done by the end of the day tomorrow — which means pulling an all-nighter tonight. You might go a week without getting a new project in. Freelancing requires a lot of flexibility, especially when you’re first starting out and are still working on building a name for yourself.

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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