Being a freelancer certainly has its perks. When you work for yourself, you get to set your own hours and schedule, take vacation without having to ask for permission, and focus on projects that are interesting or meaningful to you. But if there's one notable drawback to being a freelancer, it's the lack of job security that often comes with being a salaried employee. In fact, 25% of freelancers actively worry about job security, according to a new study by Porch, a company that connects homeowners and home-improvement professionals.
Of course, permanent employees aren't immune to job loss, either. But it generally is harder to let a salaried worker go than it is to pick up the phone and inform a freelancer that his or her services are no longer needed. Permanent employees are also frequently eligible for unemployment benefits upon losing their jobs, thereby gaining access to some income while they look for new work. Freelancers who lose major projects or clients, by contrast, tend to have virtually no protection.
If you're a freelancer who's missing the security of a salaried role, there are a few things you can do to reduce your chances of finding yourself out of work. Here are a few to start with.
1. Have a unique value proposition
Whether you write, edit, design catalogs, or work with computers, chances are there are plenty of folks out there who do the same. That's why it's crucial to have that one quality or skill that sets you apart from the pack. If you're in IT, you might pursue a certification to give yourself that edge. If you're a graphic designer, having some extra coursework under your belt can produce the same result. The key is to give clients a reason to choose you over someone who might seem similarly qualified at first glance.
2. Keep tabs on competitor pricing
The more up to date you are on what your competitors charge their clients, the better positioned you'll be to develop a pricing model that allows you to earn a decent living without losing out on business. Digging up some of this data might be easier said than done since you won't always have an apples-to-apples comparison. For example, if you're a marketer with 12 years of agency experience, the fact that a local competitor with just four years under his or her belt charges less shouldn't necessarily drive your pricing decisions. At the same time, browse different job boards, talk to your contacts, and try to get a feel for your ideal price point.
3. Network constantly
Freelancers rely on a steady stream of work, and there's perhaps no better way to secure one than to constantly get your name out there. That's why it pays to carve out time in your schedule for some serious networking. Join a local freelance professionals' group, attend industry conferences, and stay in touch with former colleagues who might know of folks who could use your services. The more you network, the more opportunities you're likely to learn of.
4. Focus on long-term relationships
Many freelancers structure their businesses around accepting one-time projects and then moving on. But if you're looking for some semblance of job security, a better approach is to work on building relationships with a few clients rather than doing a little work for dozens of clients. If you're hired by a company that seems to have an ongoing need for the service you provide, ask for a sit-down and offer that company a reason to enter into a long-term working relationship with you. You might, for example, agree to take a modest hit on your usual rate if that company, in turn, agrees to provide you with a steady stream of work for a year's time or longer.
Being a freelancer sometimes means lying awake at night, wondering whether tomorrow will be the day your major project is scrapped or the client you've been counting on will choose someone else. While there are steps you can take, like the ones above, to help mitigate that concern, always make sure to have a healthy level of savings in the bank for those periods when your workflow inevitably dwindles or dries up. Having that safety net will help you get through those rough patches so that you can continue to maintain the freelance lifestyle you enjoy.