7 Ways to Know That Freelancing is Right for You

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Freelancing isn't for everyone. Working for yourself comes with the freedom to choose what you work on, and who you work for, but it also demands organization, guts, and the ability to see things through.

If you're debating a move to the freelance life, consider these qualities of successful freelancers. If this list describes you, it might be time to consider taking the leap.

7 Ways to Know That Freelancing is Right for You

1. You're organized (or can fake it really well).

Everyone knows that person who never loses her keys, has a great sense of direction, and can put her hands on any piece of paperwork in her desk in under two minutes. The good news is that you don't need to be that person in order to make a success of freelancing.

What you do need is the ability to devise and stick with a system, and the understanding that time spent organizing -- whether it's documents or your thoughts -- is never a waste. Remember the old saying: "Measure twice, cut once." The time you spend getting ready to work, and keeping track of the mundane details of your working life, is an investment in future productivity.

2. You know what you do best -- and stick with it.

Career tests can tell you where your aptitudes and talents lie, but sometimes, figuring out what you should be when you grow up is as simple as asking yourself, "What do I love most about my job right now?"

Hate your job? That's telling, too. Make a list of all your favorite things about the best job you ever had, and the worst things about your worst job. Your goal as a freelancer will be to shoot for gigs that enable you to do things on the first list, and avoid the things on the second list.

Happy and successful freelancers keep these things in mind, and don't let themselves get talked into doing jobs that are a poor fit for their interests, personality, and goals.

3. You're frugal.

Save for a rainy day, because it's always coming, especially when you work for yourself. Ask anyone who's freelanced for a few years, and they'll tell you that the printer always breaks when your best client is uncharacteristically late with a payment.

Saving isn't easy, especially in today's economy, but you need to build a budget that will allow you to put aside a little something for emergencies. You can't do your best work if you're constantly stressed about money.

4. You're motivated.

Many people go into freelancing because they don't like the 9-to-5, and they want to make their own hours. That's great, if your clients don't need to contact you during normal business hours, but most of the time, you'll find that they will, at least on occasion.

Beyond that, you'll need to be able to create and stick to a work schedule, even if it's 6 a.m. to noon, Tuesday through Saturday, or midnight to 7 a.m., four days a week. The good news is that cash is a terrific motivator: freelancers don't get paid unless they work, a fact that might propel even the most committed procrastinator to previously unseen heights of productivity.

5. You're a (careful) risk taker.

Deciding to go out on your own is a risk in and of itself, but to make freelancing work, you need to be able to make a leap, when the situation warrants it. This is where the skills earlier on the list come in handy. If you're careful with money, organized with your time and materials, aware of your needs and goals, and motivated to work when you need to work, you can afford to take occasional risks in order to achieve big payoffs.

Just make sure you do your due diligence. For example, don't allocate the bulk of your time to new clients if you're not sure they'll pay on time -- or at all. Learn as much as you can about the organizations with which you do business before you sign a contract, and you'll be justified in taking the risk.

6. You're resilient.

The best way to teach someone how to drive stick shift is to let them stall out a bunch of times, so they won't panic when it happens. The best way to be a success is to fail -- hopefully in small, controlled situations, where you won't have to deal with a lot of fallout.

If you decide to become a freelancer, you'll need to learn to make peace with these little failures. Inevitably, you'll have a client who doesn't appreciate your genius, or a project that just doesn't coalesce, no matter how hard you try to bring all the elements together.

Worst of all, eventually, someone probably won't pay you, and you'll have to drop the client and/or do your best to recoup your losses. Successful freelancers fail just as much or more as unsuccessful ones. The difference is, they bounce back.

7. You believe in yourself.

When you freelance, you are no longer trying to impress a solitary manager whose signature on your annual review will determine whether you get a raise or wind up collecting unemployment. You'll have multiple bosses, of a sort, in your clients, but the most important person you'll need to impress is you.

If you think you can support your own dreams and believe in yourself, the freedom and challenge of freelancing just might be perfect for you.

Just remember that you'll need to be on your own side, confident or able to talk yourself into a reasonable facsimile thereof, and willing to give yourself a break when the going gets tough -- and then pick up and keep on going.