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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 September 18, 2019

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

    I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

    One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

    Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

    The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

    And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

    What to Write Down

    Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

    Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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    Dates of Events

    Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

    For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

    Names of People

    Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

    Theories or Frameworks

    Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

    Definitions

    Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

    Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

    Arguments and Debates

    Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

    This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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    Images

    Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

    Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

    Other Stuff

    Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

    Your Own Questions

    Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

    3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

    1. Outlining

    Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

    Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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    For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

    2. Mind-Mapping

    For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

    Here’s the idea:

    In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

    The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

    If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

    You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

    3. The Cornell System

    The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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    About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

    You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

    In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

    You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

    The Bottom Line

    I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

    I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

    More About Note-Taking

    Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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