Most businesses need employees to run effectively and a salary with benefits is nice to have. Sitting in an office and taking orders from someone else has its role in our culture.
But… what if you know it just doesn’t feel right for you? You’ve decided that you don’t want that to be what your career looks like for the rest of your life. So you’ve been considering a shift to freelancing full time.
Having that thought? If yes then this is what you need to know before you commit. To be a successful full-time freelancer, this is what you need to do.
The first year as a freelancer won't be that easy. You shouldn't expect a constant cash flow and gigs. Saving ensures that you have either some kind of part-time work to tide you over, or enough savings to live off of for a few months in case your progress is slow.
Again, it is important to have some funds at the start because during the first few months you may have many expenses like building a website, buying a domain, creating business cards or potentially investing in relevant courses and books or memberships in local professional organizations.
Nonetheless, when the business starts bringing in more cash, keep saving. It is never raining or sunny all the time in the freelancing world.
We have addressed this in the past on "how much to charge". As you start, it is vital to understand that you have to consider all the new expenses you’ll be taking on as a freelancer for example:
All these things will be on you and no one will help you foot these bills. It is thus important to set the right price to ensure you have enough to cater for all that. As you do that, remember not to overcharge your clients.
Offer fair rates if you seek to grow with them and get there powerful referrals.
Have a devoted workspace and routine
One of the biggest benefits of freelancing can also be one of the toughest parts for some people. Creating a devoted workspace and routine is important because it allows you to plan what needs to be done and how each goal is to be achieved on time.
Freelance work is deadline driven and as such, having a space set aside just for work can be useful to helping you create a clear separation between your work time and your free time.
Pay close attention to how and when you work best. What are your most productive hours of the day? What tasks tend to take the most time and energy? Your productivity is directly tied to how much you make as a freelancer, so if you can analyze your habits to figure out how to get more done, it will pay off in tangible benefits.
Stick to what works and do away with what brings you down and see yourself get even better. Are you ready to do that?
If you are truly looking to do this over the long term start treating it like starting a business. A lot of people start freelancing with a job-by-job mentality, simply trying to take whatever they can get as it comes.
This is wrong. The best approach is to look at this through a long-term lense. Plan the steps you should take short term to achieve your long-term goals.
Consider who your ideal clients are, what services you’re best suited to offer, how to market and position yourself in your industry, and the specific actions you should take to start building your business. Get it all on paper in writing so you have something to hold yourself to each day.
You won't get there just like that, you have to put in the work. For a start, you can start from the position of chasing work–scouring freelance job boards or cold calling companies that look like a good fit for your services.
Build a good website that showcases all that you do and then decide what marketing activities are the best fit for your skills and business.
Once you are sure about all that go on a free mode, do the marketing, get tasks, do them, deliver on time last but not least, ask them for a testimonial you can put on your website and tell them you’d love it if they could recommend you to colleagues who need similar work.
Learn to say no
I learnt this art by reading a good book by Mary D. Welch titled "Saying No Nicely." It’s easy to want to take on every project you’re offered, but there are a number of good reasons to say no to work. A project that’s not a good fit for your skills and knowledge won’t make you look good to the client.
Take what you can do or what you can outsource and get it done perfectly. Don't be in a rush to take everything for the sake of the money or need to make more. Learning how to say no diplomatically is an extremely important part of freelancing, so start practicing before you take the plunge and be prepared.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that transitioning to being a full-time freelancer will be easy right away. It won’t. But do you give up? No, you shouldn't go out there and do your thing.