Over the years, I can't tell you how many calls I've received from people who have said that they hate their current jobs and wondered if they should go freelance instead. Of course, making a decision as big as that one is something that requires a bit of thought and not one that should be rushed into. I've always tended to say that you need to weigh up what the impact of both staying in the job and leaving would be.
For example, if you were to stay in the job, what would be the pros and cons (stable income vs mental health is often the response here) and doing the same for going out on your own (being your own boss vs constantly wondering about where the next job comes from).
The fact is, being a freelancer is risk vs reward.
Yes, you do become your own boss in a sense and if you're good at promoting yourself through freelance agencies as well as your own direct avenues, then you stand a good chance of making a great living out of it.
And of course, that isn't impossible. I'm still working with some freelancers now that I was working with when I first began working in this industry over a decade ago. If they have the skills, the ability to keep on top of where to upskill and build good, reliable relationships, then they've often got a queue of people waiting to tap into their services.
So what is it about freelancing that makes it so appealing then?
If you've ever been in a working environment that has been politically charged, then there is an enormous sense of relief in freelancing as you just don't get involved in office politics. You can comfortably go from job to job and stay well out of those volatile situations.
You also get the benefit of being able to work across a wide range of client doing a whole lot of different things.
In fact, freelancing often allows a lot of creatives the opportunity to fine tune some of their skills, simply as they'll need to know how each studio they enter requires a particular piece of work to be done. There is often a few different ways to achieve an outcome and when you're freelancing, you'll get the chance to learn them all. There are obviously some challenges to be conquered too.
Freelancing isn't going to be for everyone though. If you're the sole provider of income for your family and you don't like the unpredictability of even knowing if you're going to be working from week to week, it can be quite a stressful experience too. While there is some consolation in knowing that everyone else is likely to be quiet when you are, it doesn't change the fact that we all have bills that need to be paid and like to do that thing we know as 'eat'.
In the creative industry, it isn't uncommon for things to start to go quiet around December and not pick up again until February. If you've not budgeted all that well, this can often pose some challenges in itself. Being able to manage your money and treat yourself like a small business is going to be critical to your on going success as a freelancer.
It may be worth comparing what kind of rates you might get
with that agency as I know there are some agencies
(such as Creative Recruiters) who can often pay more
than their competitors.
Additionally, going directly, you may need to occasionally put on your 'I mean business' hat when it comes to chasing up clients who are dragging their feet with paying your invoices. I've heard of some cases where people were waiting up to six months for payment which, when you're trying to manage your budget, can place some considerable pressure on your finances.
Of course, one way around that is going through a recruitment agency where you will be paid in the following week. Now, there are some recruitment agencies that are going to pay you quite a bit less than if you were to go directly and this is going to be down to their set rates and what kind of margin they're required to produce. In instances like this, it may be worth comparing what kind of rates you might get with that agency as I know there are some agencies (such as Creative Recruiters) who can often pay more than their competitors.
When it comes down to the debate of if you should work with recruitment agencies or not, when you weigh up that you're getting offered work that you may not have had the chance to do before as well as knowing you're being paid properly and promptly, you can often see the benefits in including recruitment agencies as part of your revenue streams.
As with any business, a good freelancer is going to be successful by being flexible and being able to look at each opportunity that comes through with the attitude of 'is this the right thing for me to do right now?' If you find that you're completely at capacity, then you have every reason to turn away work.
If you're not and you're potentially struggling, then being self employed means being able to ensure you're keeping yourself busy and continuing to show people that your 'brand' means reliability, flexibility and certainty that the work will be done.
Of course, if you have any thoughts, questions or simply would like to get in touch with me and offer up a topic for the next Ask Lawrence, you can contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or you can find me and connect with me on LinkedIn. You can check out more jobs by going to our website or you can search for them on Twitter via #CRJobs.
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