The only truly effective way to avoid the risks inherent to self employment and freelancing is to not be self employed and to not freelance. That particular way of generating money tends to be one giant risk when compared to full time contract work.
Being your own boss is all about embracing the risk in order to reap the significant rewards that come with it with the only major compensation being that you’ll technically never be made redundant.
You can of course avoid some of the smaller risks that contribute to the whole delicate setup and the best way of doing this is to simply be fully aware of what it is you are up against and how you can mitigate these factors damaging you.
Taking on too much work and burning out
A lot of newer freelancers or anyone starting out on the self employed path will be surprised to know that it is very easy to take on way too much work and burn yourself out, trashing not only your reputation but possibly your health as well.
Your early months and maybe even years should definitely be spent trying to take on as much work as possible and increase your client pool as much as you can, but it is very easy to overdo this and burden yourself with an impossible workload.
How to avoid: Know your limits and expand gradually. Once you have a good idea of how long various tasks take, then you can ramp up your expansion accordingly, but a more cautious approach can save you headaches further on down the line.
Relying on a limited client pool
The opposite of over expansion, you can find yourself relying on a small number of clients which could affect you if one of these regular gigs disappears or decides to use someone else in the future. There will come a point where you need to cull down your client list a bit to focus only on those that are worth your time or even just those that you actually enjoy working for, but if that client list dwindles too much, you make your position much weaker in the process.
How to avoid: Never rely on just one client and ask yourself if you would be able to carry on if you were to lose any one of your regular jobs. If you feel you don’t have enough going to sustain you, then it might be time to make a more concerted effort to search for more clients again.
This heading is a little flippant, but being self employed can be a lonely life. You might escape the loneliness by having a lot of clients that require face-to-face meetings or if you are perpetually travelling to meet with other people, but if you predominantly work remotely, the lack of third party interaction can begin to wear you down and take its toll.
If you work from home and on your own, there is a temptation to sit around in your pyjamas and become increasingly unkempt as the week passes which might initially feel like a small victory for the home worker, but can eventually take a toll on your attitude towards your work itself.
How to avoid: If it is possible or appropriate, schedule in some meetings in person with your clients to touch base on the work that you are doing, or just to catch up and check that you are all on the same page.
Failing that, even picking up the phone to check in with your clients can satisfy an urge for human contact. As far as working from home goes, you might find it useful to treat it as you would going in to the office by setting specific times and dressing appropriately, but everyone works different and you might still benefit from a more free-form approach.
It is easy to slide into a state of un-professionalism. A lot of companies that hire freelancers on a regular basis can often look down on them as a group thanks to the actions of a minority of those that they hire.
Although freelancers often get paid a lot more than their full time counterparts, they can garner a reputation for turning up late, leaving early and leaving work assigned to them unfinished or completed in a haphazard manner.
How to avoid: This is as simple as treating a freelance work in exactly the same way as you would a full time job and then putting a bit of extra time and effort in. Unfortunately you will be fighting against a negative stereotype here, but this does mean if you do go the extra mile for your client you will be remembered and probably collect some further work a bit further down the line.
If you’re working in someone else’s office, they might be expecting you to be scruffy and sloppy in your work, so dress professionally and don’t live up to their expectations.
Negligence and public liability
The things that can affect a much larger company can equally affect you when you work for yourself.
If you offer a professional opinion as part of your work, you are susceptible to negligence claims if you fail in your duty of care, if you work on the properties of third parties or have a lot of visitors to your property you are susceptible to public liability lawsuits and no matter what you do there’s always the risk of your work-critical property or equipment suffering damage that can prevent you from working.
How to avoid: All of these things are very easily insured and premiums for small businesses will be smaller than those for large businesses, meaning your rates as a freelancer will scale down to the size of your operation. It’s worth checking just how much is covered by your home insurance if you work from home at all.
This is a patronising risk but a critical and devastating one all the same – the risk of not doing any work at all. We have all at some point experienced the frustration of one distraction cascading into another and before long the sun has set and the world has left the office for the day, leaving you wondering what happened to your time.
The worst thing can be when there is no subsequent retribution for you idling the time away and no major negative reinforcement to tell you off for doing nothing with your wasted time, potentially leading to a vicious circle of not getting anything done.
How to avoid: Identify your weak points and the things you are particularly susceptible to falling into and force yourself away from them through sheer willpower. If this is too much, then you could experiment with rewarding yourself with five minutes of distraction for every 25 minutes of work, or you could take the nuclear option of blocking distracting websites or disconnecting yourself from distracting devices to prevent your mind wandering too far.
A rewarding risk
While being self employed is a risk in and of itself what with the lack of a full time contract and the security that provides, your unfettered nature does afford you a huge amount of freedom in the long run and it is no mystery why so many people strive to be successful as their own boss.
Stay away from some of the smaller issues that contribute to the overall situation and you will have much less to worry about and will find yourself in a position to choose whatever you want to work on sooner rather than later.
How do you face the risks of freelancing? Share your tips with us below!
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