2. Planning for success - setting your goals

Once you are sure the challenges and rewards of freelancing are for you, we recommend that you take an honest look at factors determining the success of your business - you and your skills.

Firstly, we recommend that you ask yourself a few questions to help you focus on what you are looking for from your new working life. Since you now need to manage your time, resources and ultimately work/life balance, you will need to be sure how much time and money you are willing to invest in your business, and what results that investment should bring.

Reasons for going it alone in the UK are plentiful and can be the result of both positive and, initially at least, negative experiences. Some are fed up with lining with their bosses' pockets, some want to 'downshift' and others have their hand forced, either though redundancy or other changes in the workplace. Your reasons for choosing to freelance will have a bearing on the decisions you make.

What are you looking to achieve?

Apply questions to both your business motives and your personal life, since both are equally important.

How much money do you want to make? Enough to live on so that you can enjoy your hobbies/family more? Or as much as possible? How much might that realistically be and what do you need to sustain the lifestyle you wish to enjoy? Setting targets means you also give yourself the chance to achieve, and reward yourself for those accomplishments. How do you see your personal and work life slotting together? What do you want from your 'time out'?

What about your character?

How does the thought of that first Monday alone make you feel? Do you like taking risks? Are you happy selling (because whatever skill you have to offer you will need to sell your services)? Are you self-motivated? What makes you stressed and what do you thrive on? Will you be happy swapping your current boss in order to answer to clients and your bank manager? Better still are you good at building relationships? What elements of freelancing are you uncomfortable with? (If chasing debt brings you out in a cold sweat for instance, you might be advised to hire someone else to do this for you). Do you have dedication, persistence, drive, patience, energy and even, perhaps, a bit of a stubborn streak? How do you deal with failure? Do you have the ability to learn from it and move on or does it have you heading to the nearest pub? How do you overcome your shortcomings?

How much are you willing to invest?

This applies to both your time and money.

How do you cope with long working weeks? Will you put in extra hours only if your client pays 'rush charges' to make it worth your while or are you aiming to ramp up income as fast as possible by undertaking additional work as and when it's available; even if that means regular 60 hour weeks? Many freelancers find they need to work such long hours, at least initially, to secure the income they need. How would you feel about catching up with paperwork at weekends? What impact will your working week have on your family/relationship?

Can you survive on less money if work dries up? Have you put sufficient living expenses to one side in the absence of work? (Many freelancers opt to stash away 6 month's worth as a safety net.) Do you have enough initial funding to invest in any office equipment, corporate stationery, initial start up costs etc?

What are your other objectives?

Have you seen a gap in the market while working for someone else? Are you looking to be able to pick and choose the work you do?

Your support network

Are you happy working alone or have you needed a team to bounce ideas off in the past? If so who might be your sounding board now? Can you develop a network of similar freelance friends? Are your nearest and dearest fully supportive of your decision to go it alone; both in recognising the hours you may have to put in, and perhaps a little financial support here and there?

We hope your answers to the above questions start a thinking process on what you are looking to achieve from freelancing, and point to any other areas where you may need to look for help. You will also need to consider what you will do if your goals do not come to fruition.

Ultimately, your business objectives and goals will form the part of your business plan, but we feel it's just as important to consider your personal goals too since not only is this a whole new experience for you, you are the main determinant as to whether you succeed or not.

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