I had always wanted to become a full-time freelancer—someday. I always worried about the typical issues that surround being self employed—no 401(k), no life insurance, no health insurance, etc., etc., etc. Leaving the comfort that came with the steady paycheck of an office job always seemed a little risky. But around the time my son turned one, I knew that for me the benefits of being self employed far outweighed the risks. At that point I also had a good network of contacts and had the experience and confidence that have helped make my venture a success.
I think there are certain things you have to consider when deciding to venture out on your own—particularly with a home-based business. The most important is your personality. For those thinking of hanging their own shingle, ask yourselves these questions:
Can you carve out time specifically for the business?
Moms and dads especially can be drawn to self employment because of the flexibility it offers. But don’t think that you’ll be able to work without childcare. I can and do complete a lot of my writing after my son goes to bed at night, but there are a lot of things that have to be done during normal business hours. For me it would be impossible to interview a source or discuss a story with an editor while balancing my toddler on my lap. I wouldn’t be able to focus and I think it would be hard for clients to take me seriously.
Do you need someone else to help you find structure?
If you need someone else to help you stay on task, get organized or prioritize your projects, running your own business isn’t for you. You’ll be responsible for keeping projects straight, taking care of paperwork and getting the job done. You may be your own boss, but you’re going to be answering to a lot of other people. When I became a freelancer, I traded one boss for six (or more depending on how many clients I am working for at the time).
Can you treat your business as a business?
It is easy to forget about the business side that comes with running a business. I’m a writer. I write. But now I also track my income goals, invoice and file quarterly tax estimates. Successful business owners pay as much attention to the back-office tasks as they do with the product their selling.