So you’ve got a side hustle that’s keeping you busy and you’re starting to make decent money. Suddenly a little thought creeps into your brain: “ Maybe I could freelance full time…”
While it’s exciting to think about the possibility of being your own boss, the reality requires putting in some serious thought and preparation to make your daydream a reality. Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to prepare for this transition without going broke or inducing unnecessary anxiety.
As someone who took the leap into the world of freelancing this past year, my advice is coming from a place of experience. This advice is a mix of mistakes I’ve learned the hard way, things that set me up for success and things I wish I did more of.
First things first:
1. Start saving
You knew I had to start with this one, right? This was the piece of advice I heard over and over again when talking to friends and family about quitting my job. Were they right? Absolutely. Unexpected expenses will always come up and those rainy day savings can be a lifesaver.
With that said, take this advice with a grain of salt. I took it so intensely, I set an insane savings goal for myself that would have kept me at my job for another 6-months before quitting. I was already nearly at a breaking point. Working 7 days a week and not taking care of myself, I ditched my goal and did what was best for me personally. While money is important, so is your mental, physical and emotional health. If you’re about to have a breakdown from work-induced stress, it might be time to take a leap of faith. You can always find ways to trim down your current budget so you can feel more comfortable during the transition anyway.
2. Create a portfolio
Word of mouth and referrals are crucial to landing clients, but don’t forget about putting together a portfolio to showcase your best work. Whether it’s creating a website or hopping onto a design program to highlight your favourite projects, take the time to get organised while you still have a job. Having the ability to quickly send a link or document out to a potential client will let your work speak for itself and allow you to feel more confident about what you do. If you’re going to work for yourself, it’s time to start treating your side work like your rent depends on it.
3. Don’t get tied to your benefits
My parents immediately freaked out about me leaving behind my company benefits, but keep in mind that benefits are really just money. Budget for purchasing these benefits out of your own pocket and you can get an IRA instead of a 401K. Most banks are happy to sit down with you for free and give you suggestions to help you transition into self-employment. It can feel overwhelming to have to learn this on your own but don’t let benefits keep you stuck in a job that doesn’t fulfil you.
4. Create a structured work environment for yourself
I learned this the hard way. It’s so easy to work for yourself and think “I’ll just work from bed or my couch! Who needs a desk anyway?!” Spoiler alert: it’s you. You need a desk. Your bed and couch are not meant to be your office. I did this on my “work from home” days at the agency I worked at, so naturally I carried those habits over full time. Big mistake.
Not structuring your days can make your hours pass by in a blur and encourages poor habits around your work/life balance. Having a ritual when your day starts and ends is incredibly important to creating a sense of normalcy for your life. Look into joining a co-working space or set up a designated office area in your house. Whatever you do, make sure you’re working from other places than just your couch. You’ll be much better off with a plan in place so you don’t develop bad habits.
5. Give yourself grace – you don’t have to have it all figured out
Everyone wants to have a perfect online brand, a huge client list and giant savings account before taking the leap to work for yourself. The reality is there will never be a moment where you feel one-hundred percent confident to quit your job. It’s always hard to transition to something new. You won’t ever have everything figured out – that’s totally okay. You begin to figure things out as soon as you start trying.
Take some time to create a budget and be honest about embracing the new challenges you might face in going freelance full-time. Get comfortable networking and putting yourself out there. While freelancing full time isn’t for everyone, I’ve found it to be incredibly rewarding with freedom, flexibility and control over calling the shots.
Would you ever consider going freelance full time?