Freelancing is a well-established and widely accepted format of work nowadays, but many people still don’t think of it as “an actual career path”. The main reason for that is the idea of stability.
It’s hard for people to imagine doing freelance work and making a good, stable living from it long-term or even for all their working years. If you have the same dilemma, check out these strategies for future-proofing your professional path.
Separate business and personal money
If you’re planning to commit to a freelancer’s lifestyle, your first order of business should be to separate your professional funds from your personal finances. It can be tempting to keep it all mashed together, if only for the convenience. However, that makes it too easy to dip into your retirement savings, education funds, emergency stash, or family money to support your business.
It’s a huge risk to your financial well-being in the long-term, and it makes keeping track of your income and expenses unnecessarily complicated. Open a dedicated business account instead. You can stick with your bank or choose another one if it has more favorable conditions.
Compare factors like interest rates, maintenance fees, international payment flexibility, accounting integration, or even support options for independent business owners (which, being a freelancer, you technically are).
Narrow down your expertise
Committing to a niche is one of the simplest ways to avoid common freelance nightmares that come with being a do-it-all generalist in a sea of other generalists. Start by reviewing your hard, soft, and transferable skills and choose your top 3-5 strengths. Where are they in demand? Don’t forget: if the market for your top skills is already saturated, you don’t have to waste energy trying to force your way in.
Sometimes it pays more to dedicate yourself to improving an ability that isn’t your best, but which you have fewer competitors for. Also, examine the interests you couldn’t realize in your traditional workplace. They could offer interesting new directions. For example, if you’re a certified accountant with a passion for animal welfare, you could specialize in doing the accounting for shelters or vet clinics.
Adapt your insurance plans
When you can’t fall back on an employer’s group insurance plan, you have to rethink your policies and the people they protect. Your best strategy is to compare life insurance estimates from different providers and see which one gives you the most value for your investment long-term. Remember that the value of life insurance spans more than post-death payouts: it also protects you and your loved ones in cases of injury, illness, disability, and other traumatic scenarios.
In addition to life insurance, you’ll need a few forms of general insurance to suit your lifestyle and business style. For instance, if your work requires travel, you should insure any vehicles you use and get travel insurance for when you’re using third-party transportation.
Depending on your industry, you might need professional indemnity insurance too. If you have any staff, even just one friend who’s registered as an employee for convenience’s sake, you also need employers’ liability insurance.
Master digital record-keeping
The primary selling point of a freelance career is its freedom and flexibility. You can’t have that if you’re bogged down with tons of papers to keep track of. Work out a virtual filing system to handle your income, general business expenses, taxes, and any other financial obligations.
You want to be able to handle all of that from anywhere, anytime. Even the insurance companies are experiencing a tech revolution, so as a digital-based professional, you should be comfortable with these new dynamics and all they entail.
Embrace things like automation, streamlined template forms, data tracking etc. Consider how to digitize your clients’ information too, as well as safely archiving important chats, deliverables, still-active NDAs, and the like. It’ll make your life so much easier when it comes to staying on top of your cash flow, managing investments and debt, nurturing contacts, and maintaining your portfolio.
Run checks on your clients
While a good contract is the frontline of your protection as a freelancer, if you want to last well into the future, you have to be smart about who you associate your business identity with. Before you take on a new client, make sure they’re reliable and trustworthy stakeholders. Consider:
- The quality of their website
- Their LinkedIn presence
- The available media about them
- Their reviews in freelancer spaces
- Their available legal information
- Registered offices
- Credit reports and credit scores
- Annual return
- Filing history
- Owners and directors
- Assets and liabilities, etc.
If anything about a prospective client is giving you a bad feeling, or if you need rigorous and deep checks to get a sensible idea of them, they probably aren’t worth the risk. Trust your intuition, and don’t be tempted by offers that seem too good to be true.
In conclusion, a career as a freelancer is entirely possible and can be very lucrative. The added flexibility and freedom are definitely worth considering. Just keep your professional and personal finances safely apart, be smart in your choice of client, and plan your insurance coverage well.
You will also have a much easier time succeeding if you embrace digital record keeping practices, and choose one niche to carve your path in.
⸻ Author Bio ⸻ ⸻
Brigitte Evans is a lifestyle blogger with a passion for design, culture, and health. She is a regular writer and contributor to numerous lifestyle blogs and online magazines. She also loves to travel and enjoy the great outdoors.