It’s a dream of many current employees to work for themselves. There’s a lot to be said for being your own boss, working from a home office, choosing your own salary, and having a lot more freedom as to when you work. But making the transition from the world of traditional employment to a freelancing career can feel like a step too far.
If you’ve never freelanced before and you have a whole swathe of bills and responsibilities to fulfill, then leaving work and setting out on a freelance adventure can be perilous.
With so many people becoming freelancers – over 60 million in the US alone – the competition is fierce and there are no guarantees of success. Yet the benefits of freelancing can be life-changing, in all regards, especially for people who want to spend more time at home with a young family.
So what are some of the steps you need to consider before leaving employment for a career in freelancing?
Test the freelancing waters first
Freelancing can appear like an idyllic career path, from the outside. It’s tempting to think freelancing is easier than office work and is merely a case of setting up a website and immediately working with great clients.
The reality is something else. It can take a lot of time, energy, frustration, and trial and error to match and surpass your current income. That’s why it’s often sensible to start your freelancing career as a side hustle, running parallel with your day job.
This allows you to test the waters when it comes to working with clients, negotiating contracts, creating proposals, exploring niches, researching marketing strategies, setting up websites, and even things like writing invoices. After a while, you’ll know whether this is something you can and want to do full-time.
If not, nothing is lost.
Assess whether freelancing is a suitable lifestyle
Another factor to consider is whether the freelancing lifestyle is for you. Many people are sold on the image of a freelancer working from home in their pajamas. They may also picture working four days a week or being a digital nomad traveling the world while working with clients at the same time.
This is achievable but it’s not as easy as it might appear.
Plus, for some personality types, it’s not actually very pleasant either. Freelancing can be very lonely, as by its nature it is a solo endeavor. Working long hours at home can soon become draining if you don’t have existing social networks in place.
If you’re adverse to constantly marketing yourself and selling your skills, then you’ll also find it difficult.
Prepare financially months in advance
As a freelancer, you’ll be responsible for managing your money. From paying taxes to sorting your own health insurance, and more, you’ll need to develop good money management skills.
This also means charging clients sensible rates that accurately reflect your talents and skills, and allow you to live comfortably. If your rates are too low, you’ll need to work more hours of the day, which can potentially lead to burnout.
It’s good practice to ensure you’re financially prepared for emergencies, illnesses, and lean times. When you’re not working, you’re not earning. This is one of the major drawbacks of freelancing, which is why saving money now while still employed, is a very good idea.
A three to six-month money cushion is ideal, where you can still live safely even if no income is coming in.
Gain family input
More and more people are understanding the world of freelancing, as it becomes an increasingly popular way of earning money. Yet for many family members and other important people in your life, the notion of suddenly quitting your job and going solo can be deeply worrying. This is especially the case if you have children or are already battling money issues.
You’ll need to talk with family and loved ones who might be directly impacted by your freelancing business dream. They might disagree with your choice but that doesn’t mean you’re wrong. It just means they don’t understand your plans or what solopreneurship entails.
But sometimes it might truly be wise to delay your freelancing plans until things are more stable in your life.
Research the required apps and tools
All workplaces use software and technology. Yet freelancing requires tools and apps you might not be familiar within your current job. Working solo is time-intensive and so anything that can improve your productivity and cash flow is essential.
As a freelancer, you’ll need good quality software that covers invoicing, payments, project management, time-tracking, data sharing, and more. It needn’t be expensive either. Here at Invoice Ninja, we provide free invoicing software and project management tools for freelancers and solopreneurs.
Study relevant marketing and sales strategies
Something new and potential freelancers underestimate the most is just how much marketing and selling you’ll need to do in order to succeed, especially in the early days. Simply setting up a website, having a logo designed, and creating social media profiles, is not enough. Every day requires ongoing marketing efforts to get your personal brand and website found.
Even experienced freelancers, with more than a decade under their belt, are consistently marketing and selling their services. They may do it less than newbies but it will always be a constant feature in your freelancing career.
Marketing and sales tactics for freelancers include blogging, networking, email prospecting, social media, ads, and more. It can take some time to gain traction.
Understand the long-term potential
When transitioning from the world of employment, successful freelancing in the form of offering services might seem the ideal long-term goal. Yet freelancing can actually evolve into other even more lucrative endeavors.
Some freelancers create and sell their own products related to their specialist field and target market. For example, they might create marketing courses and/or downloadable guides, which bring in extra money. Affiliate marketing is another similar option.
Other freelancers create little agencies of their own and hire other freelancers of differing skillsets to work together on larger and more expensive projects.
And other freelancers still, completely change the initial services they provide at the start of their freelancing career. They might start off as a designer or a writer, and a few years later provide mainly coaching or consulting services.
The long-term options open to freelancers are endless.
Freelancing can be scary but it can also be liberating and very lucrative.
And it’s completely within your power to decide on what your own unique and personal freelancing path looks like.