Are you thinking about quitting your job to become a freelance web designer?
Freelancers are in the news a lot lately. It’s tempting to think that freelancing is an easy way to make money. However, that’s not always the case.
Some people are just not ready to become freelancers. They may not have the right skills. They may be at a stage in their life where they would be better off doing something else. Or, they might not have the determination to succeed at freelancing.
It’s important to do some serious self-examination and soul-searching before you make the move to freelance web design. In this post, I share a checklist of 44 questions to ask yourself before you decide to quit your day job.
Your Skill Set
The first area of self-examination before you move into freelancing is your skill set. It’s important to take a serious look at your skills. Ask yourself:
- What kind of training do I have as a web designer? While you don’t necessarily need a degree in web design, you should know it well.
- Is my desired niche marketable? Not every niche lends itself to freelancing. If there is no demand for the type of web design you want to do, you’ll have trouble making it as a freelancer.
- How many years of experience do I have? While some freelance web designers start freelancing right out of school, it’s helpful to have worked in web design for someone else for a few years before you depend on it for all your income.
- Have I ever managed a business before? Managing a business is different from having a traditional job. If you have prior experience running a business, you will find that experience helpful.
- Do I have any business training? Even if you don’t have business experience, some business knowledge is helpful (especially when it comes to basic accounting skills).
- Do I have a professional portfolio? If you don’t, you should start building one. Nearly all freelance design clients want to see samples of your previous work.
- How much do I know about social media? Most freelancers use social media platforms to market their services. If you’re not familiar with social media, you may need to catch up.
- Do I have (or can I get) some testimonials from colleagues, teachers, or clients? If you don’t have these, you need to work on getting them. Testimonials can convince prospects to hire you.
- Do I have good people skills? You may not think you’ll need people skills for freelancing. But, you’ll need to work with clients and prospects. It’s also not a bad idea to get along well with other freelancers.
The next area of self-examination is your tools. Start by taking an inventory of what you already have that you could use for your web design business. Ask yourself:
- Do I own a good computer? The computer you use for home use such as checking emails, web browsing, and social media may not be powerful enough for your freelance business.
- Do I own a good printer? Once in a while you may need to print a record of your transactions or send a paper invoice to a client.
- Do I own the software I will need? Some professional software is quite expensive. Consider shareware or freeware alternatives.
- Do I have a good phone system? Some clients prefer to communicate by phone. Also, I recommend keeping your personal phone and business phone numbers separate.
- Do I have extra space in my home for an office? While freelancers can work from anywhere and some start by working on the kitchen table, a dedicated work space is nice.
- Do I have a mobile device? In today’s environment, it’s almost expected that your clients will be able to reach you through your mobile device and you’ll need it to make sure your designs look good on a mobile platform.
- Can I afford a website? Your freelance web designer’s website is an important marketing tool. Setting one up usually costs money.
This next section deals with your business background and business plans. Ask yourself:
- Do I currently freelance part-time or have I in the past? If you’ve freelanced part-time, you have an advantage over other freelancers with no freelancing experience.
- If I currently freelance part-time, how many clients do I have? One of the benefits of starting as a part-time freelancer is that you can build up your client base while still working full-time.
- If I’ve done some freelancing, what’s my reputation like? If your clients have been mostly unhappy, it’s a sign that you’ve been doing something wrong.
- Do I know where to get clients? If you don’t have any clients, do you have an idea of where to get clients?
- How professional is my social media presence? Prospective clients will look you up on social media. You can count on it.
- Do I already know what a fair price is for my services? Most freelancers have no idea what to charge for their services. As a result, their income and lifestyle suffer greatly.
- Are my negotiating skills excellent? As a solo professional, you’ll need to negotiate favorable terms for your business with both clients and vendors.
- Is there a business plan for my freelance design business? Businesses that develop goals and a strategy for reaching those goals typically do better than those that don’t.
- Do I already have a business website? If you do, you’ve got a head start. If you don’t, you’ll want to begin developing one as soon as possible.
- Do I have a way to get paid? Plan how you’ll be paid in advance. Some freelancers use PayPal to process payments. Others accept checks. Some accept credit cards.
The next section deals with your personal financial picture. You should carefully consider your personal financial health before making the move into freelancing. Ask yourself:
- How much do I owe? If you have a lot of bills you must pay every month, you should keep in mind that a freelancing income varies. Some months you may earn very little.
- Do others depend on my income? If you have a lot of dependents and you are the sole earner, or if you have no savings–freelancing may not be the right career choice for you at this time.
- Do I have savings? I recommend having approximately six months of living expenses saved before you start freelancing. Your savings will help to see you through the lean periods.
- How much can I afford to invest in my freelance business? Freelancing can actually cost you money. You will need to pay for webhosting, you may need to buy computer hardware or software, and those are just a few examples of business expenses.
- Have I already established a separate bank account for my business? It’s important to keep your business income and expenses separated from your personal income and expenses.
- Do I know what taxes I will owe as a freelancer? Most countries have different tax requirements for freelancers. Know what the tax requirements are where you live.
- Do I get sick a lot? If you answered “yes,” keep in mind that there are no paid sick days for freelancers. When you are too sick to work, you will not earn anything.
- Do I need to take paid vacations? Freelancers do not get paid vacation time. If you want to take a vacation, you need to either plan to work on your vacation or save a part of your income so you can take the time off.
Finally, you need to take an honest look at your personality. While many freelancers enjoy the freelance lifestyle, not everyone is happy with it. Ask yourself:
- How patient am I? Freelancing requires a great deal of patience. It may take weeks, or even months, to build up your business.
- Do I get along well with others? Some people jump into freelancing because they mistakenly think they won’t have to interact with others.
- Am I an optimist or a pessimist? You tend to get what you expect in life. If you expect a positive outcome for your freelancing business, chances are you will make it work.
- Do I work well without supervision? As a freelance web designer, no one will be looking over your shoulder to make sure that you get the job done.
- Do I often feel lonely? Most freelancers work by themselves from home. If socializing with coworkers is your favorite part of the day, freelancing may not be for you.
- How comfortable am I with selling? All freelancers must learn to sell their services to prospective clients. If you can’t do this, you won’t make it.
- How well do I handle criticism? Freelance web designers receive criticism from many sources. Your clients may criticize you. Your family or friends may not understand what you’re doing. Even other freelancers may criticize you.
- How do I handle rejection? Rejection is a normal part of freelancing. You should understand in advance that you won’t get every freelance gig you apply for.
- Am I willing to work extra hours? Most freelance web designers work long hours to establish and grow their web design business.
- Do I have a lot of self-discipline? It takes a lot of self-discipline and persistence to succeed at freelancing. You need to keep working even when you don’t feel up to it.