How I made it: Chintan Lakhani
Tell us a little bit about why you decided to embark on a freelance career!
For me, going into independent consulting was almost an afterthought. I quit my full-time job to work on my start-up idea, with no cushion in place. Working on that start-up was exactly the un-learning experience I needed at that time. Having to become the individual contributor and subject matter expert on every single aspect, was both enlightening and humbling. While the start-up didn’t see the light of the day eventually, I now had the confidence to take on independent assignments while I was still job-hunting. During this time, I got a chance to interact with a lot of people in the start-up space, or people with many problems to solve but no appetite to take on the expense of a full-time employee.
What do you wish you knew when you first started out that would have helped you?
Credentials and success stories from employment history do not necessarily convince clients when pitching freelance work. Freelance work needs a lot of sales skills, before you even get to use your own core competency.
What are some pros and cons with freelancing that you don’t think people realise?
- Independence to take up or refuse assignments based on interest or availability
- Flexibility to discuss/negotiate working arrangements in terms or on-site/remote presence and working/available hours per day/week
- No predictable/steady source of income
- No employer benefits like insurance or pension deductions
- Getting paid for the work already done could be a challenge, if the relationship or the paperwork has not been worked out in advance
- Job satisfaction (quality of work) vs. benefits (e.g. taking on well-paying but unfulfilling projects) trade-off decisions need to be made in freelancing too, just as one does as an employee.
What is it you still struggle with as a freelancer, if anything?
It is human nature to expect predictability! Freelancing allows no real assurance/visibility beyond signed projects of the assignments coming up and resultant earnings coming in.
What resources have you found useful as a freelancer?
- I personally have relied a lot on word-of-mouth and personal connections to promote my work/services, but I also have my presence on all forums/sites/marketplaces operating in the gig-economy.
- Online learning sites are a quick go-to for me to pick up skills that are peripheral/related to my main offering(s)
Are there areas you would like support but haven’t yet found anything useful?
Yes, definitely. A few areas where support is always needed:
- Clarity on taxes and government regulation/compliance
- A single repository for all document templates (e.g. freelancing agreements with clients, invoice formats, asked-vs.-delivered checklists for milestone/completion tracking etc.)
- Crowd-sourced guidance on market rates for projects of similar nature/scale
Any other top tips to people thinking about going into freelancing?
Your #1 aide for and #1 learning from freelancing is Ownership. It is your responsibility keep:
- Motivating yourself
- Getting paid and keeping the show running
Additionally, it is important to remember that there are no HR/Payroll/Finance departments in freelancing. And mostly no water-coolers and colleagues either.
What would you do differently from Day 1 if you could time travel?
- Build a solid portfolio of freelance work completed, with client approved snippets of work that I could showcase to other potential clients
- Have more confidence in my quoted prices, in terms of the value I add to client organizations, rather than being open to agreeing on ‘industry standard’ rates