If you're wondering if going to work for yourself might be right for you, see if you can answer "yes" to the following eight questions:
1. Do you have savings? If you're like most entrepreneurs, it will take a while—potentially months—before money starts coming in. Meanwhile, you'll need savings to live on and capital to get you started.
2. Can you handle financial uncertainty? If you like to know exactly when your next check will arrive and how much it will be for, working for yourself may make you very nervous. Freelancers tend to have ebbs and flows in their income and sometimes go long periods without checks coming in. Are you someone who can handle this without too much anxiety?
3. Will you enjoy working alone? You probably won't have co-workers, at least in the beginning. If you're someone who enjoys the camaraderie and energy of working with others, will you miss that if you strike out on your own?
4. Are you comfortable marketing yourself? You might be fantastic at the service you're selling, but if you aren't willing to pitch yourself to potential clients, you might not make any money. Have you thought through what it will take to sell your service to potential clients?
5. Are you prepared to do accounting, IT, and other functions, or to hire someone to do them for you? Running your own business isn't just about the service you're providing; you'll also need to take care of all the business elements that your employer previously handled for you, from billing clients to budgeting.
6. Do you have a strong network? Do you have at least a few potential clients lined up and people who will refer you to potential clients? If not, you'll be starting from scratch trying to find buyers for your work, and that's hard to do in a competitive marketplace. Striking out on your own is much easier when you already have a network of people who value your work.
7. Are you comfortable asking for money? Whether it's citing prices to clients without flinching, holding firm when someone asks for a discount, or following up on an overdue invoice, you'll need to assert yourself in the money arena.
8. Can you direct your own work? With no manager giving you guidance and feedback, you'll need to figure out for yourself where your energies should go, what isn't worth spending time on, and how to course-correct when something isn't going well. It might not sound hard, but your livelihood will depend on you getting it right.
Before you launch out on your own, make sure you've thought through the points above. Some people thrive when they're working for themselves, while others realize that it's not for them.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results, and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.