In June, I was forcibly thrusted into the freelance lifestyle. While I was 100% against it at the time, I'm only 50% against it now. Here's what I've learned so far.
Yes, this is a list. But it's a fun/educational list. Kinda like a TED talk in list form.
- You've got to hustle. There's not a day when I'm not checking LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and even Craigslist to see what's out there. That doesn't necessarily mean that I'm actively looking for my next job, but I better know what the landscape is like out there when I am ready to take my next gig.
- Get a recruiter. They're amazingly helpful. They make getting to the interview way easier. It's not all moonbeams and rainbows though. They can cut down on your take home a bit, but they also get you in front of the right people. Good with the bad. Right?
- Never say no to an interview. This is just good general advice. Conversations are free and you never know what they might lead to. Example, I was approached by my recruiters for an opportunity at T-Mobile. At first, I wanted to say no. I didn't want to drive to Bellevue, but then I remembered to never say no. It turned out being an incredible interview and led to my next opportunity to work on their new digital creative team.
- Act like you belong. Yes, you're a freelancer. You're charging crazy hourly rates that your friends don't understand and you can work from anywhere with an internet connection and a power outlet. So fancy. But still. Act like you belong to whatever company you're working with. No one likes it when a freelancer treats their temporary opportunity as temporary. No one cares how good you are you won't be invited back if you act like a temporary employee.
Your name means something. To piggyback off my last point, when people think of Jason Cahill, I want them to think I am a good writer AND an awesome coworker. Someone they would love to have on their team. So when any copywriting opportunity comes up, they'll think, "Oh man, Jason was both good AND a joy to be around. Let's give him a call and give him this here bucket of money to work with us." At least that's what I assume those conversations are like.
Health insurance. One of the shittier parts of freelancing is buying your own health insurance. Our current administration isn't helping either. But I don't want to get political, just get used to paying upwards of $250 a month for comparable health insurance.
Know your worth. A question I get from a lot of my friends and coworkers is, "How do you decide your hourly rates?" Well, I did a shit ton of research. Based on my experience, my market, the going rate for freelancers with roughly the same qualifications. When you figure all that out, ask for more. Money is a negotiation, you can always ask for more. The worst they can say is no.
Taxes. This depends a lot on the type of freelance position you accept. Some take out the taxes for you, some don't. It just depends. However, if the company doesn't pay taxes for you a good rule is to set aside 20%. I know the tax situation right now is a bit of a mess, but 20% should keep you fed and out of trouble with the IRS.
Save for that rainy day. Since we are talking about money, you should save for that rainy day (or month). In my experience, freelance life is feast or famine. So while you're setting aside 20% for taxes, also put some away for that month that you don't quite break even. It could save you from having to ask your parents for money. And none of us want to do that.
Ride a motorcycle. I'm out of things to say, but this is just a good way to get around town and gets rid of the headache of finding parking.
So that's my six-month review. It's been fun and annoying all at the same time. My advice to anyone looking to make the jump into freelance is, if you can do it, do it.
It's been a fun six months. I'm looking forward to the next six.