The freelance model in South Africa is going mainstream, with increasing numbers of professionals from non-traditional sectors like finance, legal services, engineering, marketing and design opting to go it alone.
While being your own boss and having the freedom of autonomy might be an attractive option, freelancing can be very challenging, so it’s important to do a little introspection before abandoning the security of full-time employment.
Here are the five questions you should be asking yourself:
- What are your marketable skills and key strengths?
Steve King, a partner at Emergent Research, says identifying your key strengths and skills will help you ascertain whether you have in-demand skills.
Make a list and figure out whether there are any gaps in your skill set that may require further training or whether you might need a refresher course.
If you’re not feeling 100% sure about the financial viability of your skill set, it could be useful to try your hand at moonlighting while you’re still employed to better gauge the market.
- Do you have the right temperament?
If you’re a people’s person who thrives on being surrounded by others, freelancing may not be the best avenue for you to pursue.
“Our research, and the research of others, consistently finds that loneliness is a big challenge,” King is quoted saying in a Harvard Business Review article.
“It’s important that freelancers make the effort to get out and interact with people in both social and work settings.”
- How robust is your network?
Sara Horowitz, author of The Freelancer’s Bible, says having a strong network of connections is critical to becoming a successful freelancer.
“Freelancers who are connected to others tend to do best economically,” Horowitz was quoted saying in the article. “The most successful freelancers know how to use their network for all sorts of things, like outsourcing work when they have too much.”
While joining a freelancers’ association or small business owners group will help you make good business connections, King says you should also be tapping into your personal network of friends, neighbours and acquaintances to help spread the word. It’s also a good idea to connect with someone who is already freelancing and who can help guide you towards useful resources.
- Are you secure enough financially to handle the transition?
Ideally you should have an amount equivalent to six months’ worth of your current salary saved up to serve as a buffer when business is slow, especially if you’re not married or don’t have a partner who can support you financially.
“You should build your expenses in a way that if you hit a dry patch, you’ll be okay, and the more cushion, the better,” King says.
You should also factor in 25% for tax in your budget.
- Do you have a strong work ethic?
Being your own boss means you need to be very organised, reliable, efficient and prepared to be a jack-of-all-trades in work that might not be related to the type of business you run.
“You need to be self-motivated, have good organisational skills, and a strong work ethic,” says King.
If you struggle to meet deadlines or are not comfortable with working odd or extended hours, then freelancing may not be the best option for you.