Why you shouldn't quit your job to freelancE
Updated: Jun 4, 2019
1. These are my personal experiences.
2. It is fucking hard. Won't recommend it.
Have savings in place, have insurance and an emergency fund in place, build social currency, clear out all your credit card debt, learn how to do business first, take care of your mental health, do not work from coffee shops as I did. (The coffee without a doubt is amazing and people you will meet will be amazing too, but it is just not a good business decision.)
The world you see around you makes you question yourself every time you visit a coffee shop and there are smiling faces of freelancers working out of there. You ask yourself, "why can't I live a life like that?"
It all looks very cool and the title of a freelancer, entrepreneur, small business owner all do very well for your ego, but is it the right thing for you to jump out of you 'miserable job' and become a freelancer?
Here is my story, learning, and recommendations on why you shouldn’t do just that, yet.
Don't fall for the narrative. It's not as hunky dory it looks like. There are too many moving parts when you try to set something up on your own, and unless you are really good at all of them while being almost unbeatably good at the one thing you are going to pitch yourself for. Otherwise, it is going to be a failure.
The total number of projects I have pitched so far: 20, the total value of $xxx,xxx. Total closed 0. Time taken is 8 months. It has been nothing short of a disaster. Learning, of course, is immense, but unless I had some money saved up, I would have become homeless and would have been starving in no time.
I have been told that this struggle is right to passage. But I always ask myself, what could have I and should have I done to better prepared and to be a better reason for people to invest in?
Here are a few realities:
1. The world is full of cheap labor. No matter how hard you try to stay competitive with your pricing, someone or the other is always going to beat you down for it.
2. It is incredibly hard to stand out. Especially if you are in India. There are just so many of us here, and there is always someone who will do a gig for a few thousand cheaper, and most likely a business will go with that.
3. Most businesses are out there to take your ideas, waste your time. And no it is not unethical. A business' objective is not to be fair. It's objective is to make the most out of the minimum to none investment. The same goes for pricing. You need to know what's the sweet spot for pricing and this again comes with years of working in the industry. You need to be able to judge people and situations and you need to be prepared for all of them. Everything in this world is a part of a pattern and you need to recognise it.
4. Value-based pricing almost never works if you are in your twenties and you are pitching projects to medium or large size firms. The reason here is not your age. The reasons are:
a) The trust with your client takes a long time to build, and there is no short cut around it.
b) If your quotes are high, why would the client not go with someone who is more trustworthy and has a body of work built across years? A close friend of mine told me, big fishes want to work with big fishes.
c) You always have to look at what the market price for the gig is. It is okay, and perhaps good for business if your quote is around or slightly higher than the market price. It isn't okay however if your price is multiple times bigger.
Do I know how to work around this conundrum? No, not yet. What I do know however if you have to give this process time. A lot of time.
You have to be patient and you have to play your game. Also, you can't do value-based pricing when you don't have your base expenses covered.
The first goal you need to hit is basics to be sorted. Rent + Food + Travel +emergency fund. Unless you have all this covered and you know that the work is going to come again to you, you should focus on hitting this goal. I have personally missed out on projects because I didn't know when to do value-based pricing.
Do at least 1-year long cost analysis. Keep double the cushion you feel you should, and don’t stop there. Cut your expenses in half, and then half them again. See if that is a lifestyle you want to, or can live with. Save, save, save, save, save.
If you think you will need a 100K for the next year, attempt to save 250K, through gigs, jobs, writing, teaching, because that is the minimum you will need to go ahead and do what you set out to do.
5. Projects are just not easy to find. You could be in a field where there is a lot of work and it may be easy for you to find short term gigs. But as a freelancer, your survival depends on a continuous pipeline of projects that are going to take care of your bills and help you grow. This is 100 times harder than you may think it is. Most of us lack the social currency and relationships in the industry that could help us create this pipeline. Every project takes time. No matter how small or big. Companies will never just give you a project. While finding a project is hard, closing it is another ball game altogether. If you are going to make 100 pitches, maybe 1 or two are going to go through.
6. Mental health first. Mental health takes a toll man. Anxiety and stress will ruin you. Therapy is expensive.
7. Always be hustling and always be pitching is the wrong approach. If you are going to work yourself to a bone, when are you ever going to live the dream you started this who journey for. Balance is important. Let me put it this way. Balance is more important than you can imagine.
9. Daily grind
10. Stress is through the roof.
11. You may potentially bald (i know I have)
12. You will also gain weight if you don't take care of your health
13. Self-doubt because people are not responding to your work the way you think they should or would.
14. It's not personal, it's business. Unless there is a strong business case for a company to work with you, why would they?
15. Learn how to deal with clients, how to manage expectations, learn what to spend this really hard earned money on. Build negotiation skills. Learn a good client for a bad one.
Know your worth. Learn when you do value-based pricing. Read, implement, repeat. Put your work out there, the more you do that, the more you know what your work can get you. Learn to build a business case. Put yourself in their shoes. Given the money you are asking them for, would you choose you? Learn to be critical of your work, find people who can help you learn and grow. It is not going to come easy. Remember, by definition, you have to become the person companies come to for most quality outputs with minimum expenses. You have to become the best in that space. And none of this is easy.
Just keep at it. Up skill, get stronger mentally, financially and building support systems. Keep at it. Slow and steady.