In many ways, the rise of freelancing as a popular and lucrative method of working is the global economies worst-kept secret. After all, an estimated 53 million U.S residents currently work as freelancers, and this accounts for a staggering 34% of the total workforce. In the UK, 4.6 million workers operate independently or on a contracted basis, up from just 3.9 million back in 2008.

While many may cite the global recession of 2008 as the single biggest contributor to the growth of the freelance marketplace, innovation and the notion of flexible working directives have also empowered individuals to seize control of their professional destiny. Altogether, these factors have combined to make freelancing a compelling career option in 2016, and one that is accessible to a wider number of skill-sets.

Is now the time to freelance? 3 universal considerations to keep in mind at all times

The compelling nature of freelancing should not detract from the challenges facing those who work on a contractual basis, however, particularly those relating to sourcing regular work, complying with taxation laws and thriving in an increasingly competitive market space. This means that you must conduct thorough research before taking the plunge from full-time to freelance, as you consider a myriad of factors and their potential impact on your ability to earn.

While some of these factors may be restricted to specific markets and periods of time, there are others that are universal in their nature. Here are three of the most important and a look at how they should influence your decision: –

The Global economic outlook

The world is an increasingly contracting and inter-connected space, and one when the global economic outlook is far more important than single country perspectives. The prevailing economic climate is an important consideration for aspiring freelancers, who must appraise a number of trends before abandoning the security of a full-time career.

A look at the current and recent economic climate provides a relevant case in point, as reports of growth towards the end of 2015 have proved to be widely optimistic in the harsh light of a new year. While the U.S appears to have shaken off the concerns of an obvious economic slowdown by adding an impressive 215,000 new jobs in March, others have not been as unfortunate and this reflects the uncertainty that exists in 2016.

Take the UK, for example, where disproportionate and unsustainable house price growth has distracted from the true economic picture and misled citizens. Forecasts for economic growth in the UK have subsequently been revised from 2.4% to just 2% in 2016, which could dramatically reduce consumer spending and force businesses to scale back their planned recruitment drives.

With such economic volatility and similar factors pointing to the onset of a global recession in 2016, aspiring freelancers will need to be fully informed and prepared before making a commitment. The same principle can be applied to any economic scenario, however, as sacrificing job security for a potentially higher salary is fraught with risk at any point in time.

The freelance Market and the skills that are in demand

With remote technology having improved beyond almost all recognition, it is tempting to think that almost any skill is marketable in the freelance sector. While this may be technically true, however, there are some that are more in-demand than others and this is something that has continued to evolve over the course of the last decade.

Historically, freelancing was the preserve of IT professionals and software developers, as employers looked to reduce annual salary costs on niche but highly skilled professions. The desire to create a mobile and flexible workforce that is selected from a global pool of talent has opened up the market considerably, however, to the point where content writing, graphic design and HTML input are now highly coveted skills.

In fact, a report from Econsultancy revealed that article writing and content creation skills dominated seven of the 10 most in-demand freelance professions as recently as 2013, while an increase in freelance recruitment was reported across almost all employment sectors. This proves that will the market will continue to evolve and embrace new skill-sets, there will always be a select few that remain more in-demand than others.

It is therefore your duty to compare the freelance niches that re most relevant to you,before determining whether or not there is a viable demand for your skills. You should also consider whether or not a specific market is saturated with service providers, as this will also impact on your ability to earn contracts and achieve the required remuneration.

Can you value your time in a way that meets your financial goals?

It is generally believed that freelancing can afford you access to a higher income, and while this is largely true your exact earning potential is also heavily influenced by how much work you can secure during the financial year. Your current salary will also place your potential freelance earnings into context, and you may find that the difference is more negligible than you initially believed.

So before you take the plunge into the constantly evolving world of freelancing, you must first value your time in a way that makes the move viable before comparing the market to see if it can bear your proposed rate. Only then will you be able to make an informed decision, or at least one that will allow you to sustain your lifestyle and compete for regular contracts.

In terms of the first consideration, start by making a commitment to value your time per hour. This is not only the easiest way to place a value on your experience and draw inspiration from your full-time job, but it also creates a price plan that encompasses everything you need to do in the course of your daily schedule. Content writers can include tasks such as research and client liaison, for example, enabling them to charge for the precise amount of time spent on a project rather than individual actions. This ensures that you optimise your earning and simultaneously create transparency for clients.

This will leave you with at least a minimal hourly rate that can sustain your existing lifestyle and makes the decision to freelance theoretically viable. You can then determine whether or not it is possible to charge such a rate in your chosen, real-time market, while also offering a competitive proposition to clients and securing regular work.

If not, you will be better served by remaining until full-time employment and laying the foundations for a freelance career in the future. If so, you can consider taking the plunge into a thrilling and potentially lucrative market that is increasingly popular in the modern age.