I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. One of the questions I get asked most often about my transition to being a full-time freelancer is, “How exactly did you do it?” That question likely seems broad (because, well, it is), but most often I find that people are really trying to get their hands on the nitty gritty details of how to take the leap and dedicate themselves to the freelance life full-time.
There’s no denying it—it’s a scary period of time. And, unfortunately, there’s not a lot I can do or say that will make it any less scary. However, knowledge is power, right? So, I thought I’d pull together some tips and tricks I used when I took the plunge. If you’re thinking of taking that same step sometime soon, I hope these are helpful to you!
I won’t even try to sugarcoat it—trying to get started freelancing is downright difficult. In all honesty, it took me months before I was earning even anything close to a decent wage doing freelance work. But, I was incredibly fortunate that I had a soft place to fall (in the form of my husband and my parents) when it came to pulling through those financially tough times.
It sounds selfish, but you absolutely need to have the same sort of safety net set up for yourself. After all, your bills don’t really care if you’re chasing your passions—they still need to get paid regardless.
But, don’t think that your “soft place” needs to be a friend or family member who’s willing to toss you a few extra dollars when things get hard. It can also be a “back up plan” of sorts. It could be that part-time job you’ve worked on and off for ages that you know you’re always welcome back to, or a remote data-entry position you can work whenever you feel like it. The important part is to just have that ace in your pocket that you know will help you get through those tough financial times. They’re going to happen, so you need to be prepared.
As I’ve mentioned before, when I left my full-time job, I had one large freelance client that I was hoping would carry me through until I was able to build my business up. That client actually ended up dropping me a few months later (read the whole terrifying story right here). But, even so, knowing that I had that work (and steady income!) to rely on (even for a few months) made taking the leap that much easier.
This is why I always recommend that aspiring freelancers start early. Do what you can to build up your business while you’re still working full-time. Yes, it’ll likely mean some late nights and some long weekends in front of your computer. But, the more work you have lined up, the better you’ll feel about bidding adieu to your full-time gig.
There’s so much involved in running a business. But, here’s the kicker: you don’t get paid for all of it. In fact, there are tons of necessary elements (maintaining your own website, accounting, prospecting, marketing, finding your own health insurance, setting up a business entity, etc.) that you’re not going to get paid for—they’re not billable hours.
So, why not get as much of that taken care of as you can while you’re still employed (and making a steady paycheck)? Get all of those ducks in a row, so that when you officially leave your full-time position, you’re able to jump right in with the good stuff!
This is another thing you’ll want to get done sooner rather than later. Determine where you’ll work from and set up your workspace. Establish an accounting system to keep track of your income and expenses. Figure out how you’ll organize your files.
Get all of those nuts and bolts in order. It’ll help you to feel like you’re running toward something when you quit your full-time job—not away from something.
Admittedly, I was a little naive when I first jumped ship to start my business. For some reason, I didn’t think it could be that hard. After all, I could sit at home all day in my sweatpants in front of my computer. That was basically what I did all weekend, so this was bound to be a dream!
Wrong. I have never worked harder than I did when I was starting my business. So, don’t brush off those people that provide those constant warnings about it being a ton of work. Yes, it might seem discouraging—but, they’re right.
Have you already taken the jump from full-time job to full-time freelancer? Any other tips to add to the list?