Should You Go Solo?

Should You Go Solo?

Kristin Kane writes for – a Ms.Money partner.

Recent years have seen a mass migration of work from the office to the home. Many people now telecommute one or two days a week, while others are opting to leave the 9-to-5 world altogether and establish themselves as independent professionals. Amidst a bewildering explosion of options, many of us are rethinking the fundamental questions of how, when and where we do our work. For those who are considering becoming independent professionals in the world of eWorking, it is best to start by making a balanced assessment of the benefits and challenges of this unique way of working. While the list will be different for each person, there are certain factors that affect almost everyone.

The Benefits

Freedom. The #1 reason people choose to work as an independent is a desire for freedom. As an eWorker, you set your own schedule; from the crack of dawn to the wee hours, you craft the day to suit your work habits and preferences. This aspect can be especially attractive to people who have outside interests, or who are pursuing a parallel career. Whether you are working on a novel, training to be a deep-sea diver, or just want to spend more time with your family, eWorking allows you to schedule your work around your other priorities.

Diversity of work. Choice of projects is another area in which an independent professional enjoys great freedom. Because of the inherent diversity of client needs, eWorkers can choose from a wide variety of outlets for their work. Chances are, you will find yourself wearing many hats. And fortunately, this variety of demands means that you will be constantly acquiring new skills, and increasing your marketability.

You are paid for the quality of your work, not for the time you spend. One of the benefits of contract work is that it rewards efficiency. If you turn out a first-class product, it doesn’t matter if it comes after hours of toil, or a single productive morning. With such an incentive to master effective time management, you may find that you finish your work more quickly, and have time left over to take on additional projects or concentrate on your other interests.

Excitement. The unpredictability of an independent career can be one of its greatest attractions. A project may send you down an unexpected road. You may find yourself increasingly interested in an area of your field you had not considered before. An exciting aspect of eWorking is responding to these new developments, and charting a course through an ever-shifting landscape.

The Challenges

Loss of stability. The freedom and excitement of a freelance career come at the expense of financial stability. If you are paid on a project basis, it’s difficult to predict your bsalary from month to month. This insecurity is the overwhelming reason why more people do not choose to work as independents. Although this can be an intimidating challenge, a proactive approach to cultivating clients and getting new projects will go a long way toward growing and stabilizing your business. Apply for more projects than you can possibly accept (some independents apply for as many as 100 projects a week!). If you get to the point where you are turning down projects, you will have gained not only stability, but also your choice of projects.

The challenge of time management. One of the challenges of being self-employed is staying motivated and structuring time efficiently without the helpful presence of a manager. Although you’ve probably dreamed for years of a wide-open schedule, it can be a nightmare in practice if you are not careful. Setting clear goals for each day, week and month, is a good way to guide your work. If your priorities are clear, you can be your own best manager.

Lack of benefits. Companies usually offer their full-time employees extensive benefit packages–built around a core of health and dental coverage, and a retirement plan. If you are self-employed, you pay for these important services out-of-pocket. This can be costly, especially if you have dependents. You will need to factor this expense into your budget when deciding how many projects to take on. Then be sure to compare various providers. Another solution sometimes overlooked is a significant other’s benefit package. Check to see if you (and any dependents) can be covered under his or her plan with a lower out-of-pocket expense. Yet another option is eWork Exchange’s eWork Services feature. This service offers independent professionals an array of affordable group medical and retirement benefit plans.

Cabin fever. The independent professional’s lifestyle tends to attract people who enjoy working alone. But too much “alone time” can make even the most introverted person a bit stir-crazy. Because project work does not usually come with built-in opportunities to work with others, eWorkers need to make an extra effort to get out into the world. Regular, scheduled activities like classes or professional organization meetings can help diversify the week and relieve stress. Take advantage of your freedom. If you have a laptop, why not try eWorking from the beach or your local cafe?

If you’re willing to work hard and accept a little risk in exchange for the independence of a freelance career, eWorking can be a very rewarding adventure.