Big decisions: Be your own boss

4 rules I live by as a full-time freelancer

What it means to be your own boss - Neiko Ng Everyone’s interpretation of freelance is different — as is everyone’s journey into the field and what matters most to him or her while on that journey. Deciding to pursue freelance art and illustration as a career wasn’t an easy decision for me, nor a path I necessarily chose to pursue from the moment I could pick up a pencil — it took a lot of time and consideration.

The perks

What appeals to me the most is the ability to work on my own within my personal space. It’s also great not to be micromanaged, to be able to set my own hours, and to have some flexibility down the road — all while taking on the kind of work I want to do. This was the idea when I got started, and I still feel the same.

The rules

What I found out pretty quickly is that even though I was working for myself, I had to put some foundational rules in place. These are just simple footnotes that I’ve always kept in mind and have helped me in my career:

  1. Be relentless in your work ethic.
  2. Never stop building your artistic arsenal, and always be willing to learn. Acquiring contacts and clients is important, but it’s leagues easier when your skills get better.
  3. Always be civil, kind, and professional with other people, even when you have to decline a work opportunity.
  4. Do your best to get things done on time and avoid distractions. Have the mindset that you’re in a working environment, even if it’s within the confines of your own home.

The challenges

The only unfortunate side of freelancing for me is an occasional gap in work. Having an agent can help, but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee more jobs. This adjustment to having interruptions in income can be tough, and it’s one that a lot of freelancers face more than occasionally when they’re first starting out and still building a name for themselves. I’ve found it’s important to keep a vigilant eye on my finances, because I don’t have a salary or some type of consistent payment flowing in as I would if I worked for a company.

As a freelancer, you also have to manage your own taxes and handle your own health insurance — again, amenities that companies typically provide for their employees. It’s another trade-off that comes with the territory.

Even with those few drawbacks, I’ve had a very satisfying time operating in this fashion. I feel I have more artistic freedom to express myself. While some of the hurdles are a juggling act, the payoff has been considerable and I wouldn’t change it.

As a freelancer, you also have to manage your own taxes and handle your own health insurance. It’s another tradeoff that comes with the territory.

Financial factors: be your own boss

Careful money management is essential when you run a freelance or solo consulting business.

  • Taxes: Set aside a portion of your income for taxes and make quarterly payments to avoid a big tax bill and penalties on April 15.
  • Legal: Consult a lawyer about whether creating an LLC or S corporation would be advantageous. Also consider business liability insurance.
  • Pricing: Factor in the value of your time plus overhead costs and the cost of benefits when calculating your rates.

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