Being your own boss is alluring, but is the freelance lifestyle for you?
These days, it’s hard to deny we live in a “gig” economy. From Lyft and Uber to Silicon Valley’s dependence on contract workers, more and more skilled technicians are turning towards the freelance lifestyle. And who can blame them? Being your own boss, making your own hours, being in charge of what you do and when you do it: there’s a lot to love about making a living as a freelance technician…but the decision is not without risk.
When it comes striking out on your own as a freelance technician, there’s a lot to consider before you take that first step. For skilled labor occupations, like HVAC technicians, making the switch to a freelance career requires a strategy, knowledge, and a specific skill set. But if you can make the switch, the rewards are worth it.
So are you ready to take the plunge?
Here’s our list of the top 4 things you need to know before becoming a freelance technician.
No. 1: Sometimes, You’ll Have to Go it Alone
When you’re part of a team, you gain the benefit of shared ideas and access to the knowledge and experience of your colleagues. Besides, you cannot discount the value of camaraderie. It can be lonely and isolating to spend every day with just yourself as a company.
So before you consider making the switch to a freelance lifestyle, ask your self these questions:
- Am I a people person, or do I enjoy spending time alone?
- Do I enjoy getting feedback, or am I comfortable calling all the shots?
- Can I handle accountability and being on the hook if something goes wrong?
While working independently does require a certain mindset, for many freelancers, the increased autonomy is worth the extra effort. You might be on the hook for the big decisions, but you are also in charge of your destiny. It can be liberating to know you can choose which projects to accept, and more often than not, when you decide how to spend your time and energy you end up becoming more efficient and effective, so your jobs are completed quickly, and your customers are happy with the results.
No. 2: Flexibility Means Giving Up Financial Security
With a full-time job, you know you can depend upon that regular monthly paycheck, as well as sick days, health insurance, retirement benefits, and more. The life of an employee includes consistent income, which allows you to maintain a budget and even plan for luxuries or emergency expenses. As a freelancer, on the other hand, your income is far from certain. You can get caught in the cycle of feast-and-famine, never knowing if your lastest job is your last.
Before you abandon the security of a 9-5 gig, you should ask yourself these questions:
- Do I have enough savings (or other resources) to sustain myself during lean times?
- Can I handle not knowing when I might next get paid?
- Do I know enough about budgets and accounting to handle inconsistent income?
While it can be scary to step into financial uncertainty, freelance technicians do have one advantage over their 9-to-5 counterparts: income potential. As a freelancer, you get to set your price and pick your projects. That may mean choosing lots of small assignments that may not pay a premium, can be done quickly and easily, and add up over time. Alternately, you can limit your time and energy on big-ticket gigs that might require more effort and logistical planning but come with a bigger payoff.
In the end, only you will know if you have the fortitude to handle the financial uncertainty that goes along with being your own boss. If you can weather the lean times, then the bounty is yours for the taking!
No. 3: You Will Need Self-Discipline
When punching a time clock, your schedule is determined by forces outside your control. That makes it easy to arrive on time, get your work done, and collect your paycheck. When you work as a freelancer, you must find the motivation and energy to follow through on your responsibilities all on your own, without a boss or foreman holding you accountable.
For self-starters, the self-discipline needed to thrive as a freelance is second nature. But for many accustomed to reporting to a superior, finding the fortitude to hold yourself accountable is much more challenging.
If you not sure you have the self-discipline needed to work as a freelancer, as yourself the following questions:
- Can I stick to a schedule without a boss looking over my shoulder?
- Am I comfortable with long days that start early and end only when the job is done?
- Do I have what it takes to manage multiple projects or assignments?
No. 4: You Are Your Own Cheerleader
When you’re employed by someone else, you take your assignments and complete your projects without having to look for work. As a freelancer, on the other hand, getting work is now your responsibility. That means you will have to be your own cheerleader and discover ways to market yourself and your business. This means networking and business cards, maybe even a website and an advertising budget.
If you are not sure you know how to promote yourself, consider the following questions:
- Do I know how to network, and am I comfortable promoting myself to strangers?
- Do I want to spend time learning how to market myself?
- How will I get the resources I need to gain new customers?
If the idea of reaching new clients on your own seems overwhelming, do not give up hope. These days there are plenty of resources available that make it easy and affordable to build a website, design a business card, and even place advertising online. You don’t have to be a marketing pro to make it as a freelancer, but you do need to be aware that some effort is required. Customers can’t find you if they don’t know you exist.
It’s All About Freedom vs. Security
Becoming a freelancer is a lot like starting your own business. Not only are you responsible for finding work and completing projects, but you will also have to wear many hats, from bookkeeper to marketing to boss. While success as a freelancer takes a lot of work, the abundant benefits are hard to ignore. In the end, it’s a choice that will depend on what you’re willing to give up in exchange for all the freedom and benefits you will gain.