FYI: Freelancer Traits


Hello and welcome to FYI.

This week, we follow up our last post with a look at the personal traits that determine if you can succeed as a freelancer. So let’s start with the two major differences between freelancing and full-time employment.

The first is that most full-time employees are entitled to payments such as medical, contributory pension, paid leave and holiday travel in addition to an annual salary. These are generally referred to as benefits and perks. Freelancers by the nature of their jobs do not enjoy these benefits. They therefore work a lot harder to earn enough to cover these costs.

The second major difference is in what is referred to as security. Full time employees enjoy financial security on the basis of a cyclical salary or wage (usually monthly) which means that they are sure of what is accruable at any given point in time and can plan accordingly. They also enjoy what is termed job security. This is based on the assumption that once employed you will continue to be until retirement. Financial and job security are also beneficial because they allow access to yet-to-be-earned income through loans; especially mortgages. Freelancers on the other hand are only entitled to payments for specific work done during the period covered and have to be on a continuous lookout for opportunities to earn. They however enjoy possibilities of flexible working hours and simultaneous income streams from multiple clients as opposed to a single employer.

So how do you know if freelancing or full time employment will suit you better? The answer lies in personal convictions. But basically if your answers to these questions are yes, you might make a good freelancer.

  • Are you a self-starter?
  • Can you prioritise and multi-task?
  • Do you know your self-worth?
  • Can you brand and continuously recreate yourself?
  • Are you good with money?
  • Do you have patience?

Self-starters motivate themselves to work and need minimal input from superiors or colleagues. Multi-tasking means you can complete several things over a short period of time by determining a right sequence of steps based on scales of importance. Knowing your self-worth means understanding the value of your work and not being scared to negotiate or charge fees that are commensurate with your skill set. Branding means the ability to gain the attention of prospective clients by improving your skills and showcasing them progressively over time. Being good with money means the ability to plan and track expenses as well as save a part of your earnings. Patience refers to the ability to not give up easily, the willingness to continue learning and to accept lots of changes. These traits while essential to everyday life are even more so for freelancers because they are their own bosses, brand managers and financial planners. So if you find them strange, you might be better off settling for a regular job.

But here’s the thing. The employment rate in Nigeria is on a decline relative to population growth. The changing global economy and the need to reduce running costs means big companies are rapidly switching to part-time or contract hires that have specific (sometimes renewable) engagement periods with no benefits attached. It’s why Nigerian Banks and Telecom companies continue to retrench and modify job requirements. It’s also why outsourced roles are replacing traditional full time employees within the Civil Service in areas such as cleaning, waste disposal and recruitment. And this trend is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. It means opportunities for regular employment will be even harder to come by.

So think about it, if the major differences between freelancing and full time employment lie in benefits and security, and the global economy is gradually taking them away, shouldn’t you be paying attention?

Before we sign-off, here are Katy Cowan’s 8 reasons to go freelance and Amber Weinberg’s 12 reasons not to.

Now it’s your turn. What are your thoughts on freelancing, part-time/contract jobs and full time employment?

Abubakar Abdullahi is Managing Principal at The Front Office NG. He tweets @ab_bakr

Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in The Business Hub on 25th June 2014.


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