Are You Cut Out for Independence?

Are You Cut Out for Independence?

Rob Einaudi writes for – a Ms.Money partner.

On a day when your boss is hounding you, your colleagues are driving you nuts, and the nearest paid vacation seems an eon away, you may find yourself daydreaming about leaving it all behind and setting up your own consulting business. The life of an independent professional has many advantages, but it’s not for everyone. Answer the following questions to find out if you have what it takes to strike out on your own.

1. Do You Have an In-Demand Skill?
The first thing you’ll need to assess before making the jump to freelancing is this: do you have a skill that employers are looking for? Is there a lot of demand for independent professionals in your field? Check resume postings on Web-based project sites and talk to others in your field. While you’re at it, be sure to get a feel for ballpark fees. Hourly wages should be roughly twice what you make as a paid worker.

2. Do You Thrive On Risk?
Being your own boss has many benefits – setting your own hours and pay scale and choosing among clients are just a few – but there is a certain amount of risk involved. Are you prepared for potential gaps in work availability? Are you willing to go out on a limb to try to get the jobs that interest you the most? If you’d rather forge your own trail than stay safely with the group, you probably have the right attitude.

3. Are You Self-Reliant?
There are probably a few things you take for granted at your salaried job. Health insurance. Tech support. Free sodas in the company fridge. Will you feel comfortable selecting and paying for your own health insurance? Will you know what to do if your computer crashes? These are just a few of the things you’ll have to figure out for yourself if you go solo.

4. Are You Flexible?
The life of an independent professional can be quite unpredictable. One week, you may have more work than you can handle. The next thing you know, a big project may get canceled. Whether you’re working primarily for one client or for many, you’ll need to do some juggling to keep it all flowing smoothly. But if you play your cards right, you may find yourself with a steady income and more free time than you have ever had before.

5. Do You Communicate Well?
Many companies hire independent professionals for off-site work. Excellent communication is essential to a good working relationship with any client, and it’s especially important when you aren’t working face to face. Make sure you understand clearly what you’re being asked to do, and be certain to confirm deadlines. If you misunderstand the requirements of a project or turn it in late, you probably won’t be hearing from that client again.

6. Are You a Good Net worker?
As a freelancer, you can never be sure where your next gig will come from – a former employer, a college pal, or the fellow next to you on a recent plane trip. If you’re on good terms with your former bosses and colleagues, and have a large network of friends, you’ll have a head start when it comes time to look for work.

7. Do You Have the Right Tools?
Maybe you’re used to getting a new computer and free software every year from your employer. Are you going to be able to equip yourself with the right tools to work independently? You might want to talk to an accountant to see what business expenses are fully tax-deductible before you purchase anything significant.

8. Do You Have a Financial Cushion?
When setting up your independent practice, you’ll probably have some initial expenses, and you may even have to take out a loan to start your business. The work may also take some time to become constant, so make sure your finances are in order before you begin.

So, Are You Up for It?

If you’ve answered all of the preceding questions in the affirmative, you may still want to make a list of pros and cons for staying at your job or going solo. Working from home may free you from a difficult boss, long hours and a horrendous commute. On the other hand, do you think you’re going to miss paid holidays, vacation and sick time? If you find yourself coming down on the side of independence, then you may really have what it takes to become an independent professional.