Going from fulltime to freelance: your concerns and how to tackle them
So you quit your full time job to take the plunge into the world of freelancing?
You have so many questions going through your head – re-examining your decision and questioning whether it was the right one.
Maybe you decided to take the plunge into freelancing so that you can finally do something you love. Maybe after being a full time parent for a few years, you decided to use your experience and skills to work from home giving you the flexibility you need with your growing family. And maybe you’ve always dreamed of owning your own business and circumstances were just right.
Whatever your reasons – you are now a freelancer and don’t have the security of your full time job.
But if done right – your freelance career can soar.
LET’S HIGHLIGHT SOME OF YOUR CONCERNS AND HOW TO TACKLE THEM WITH ACTIONABLE ADVICE FROM FREELANCERS WHO HAVE BEEN THERE:
1. MONEY & FINANCES
The number one concern for every freelancer is money.
Will you be able to sustain yourself and make the same kind of income as from your full time job?
Probably not – at least not in the beginning few months or maybe not even in the first six months.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
Before you actually start freelancing, it’s important for you to understand that you will be running a business. It’s wise to adopt a business mindset right at the beginning. This means, getting your finances in order and assessing your personal expenses, living expenses and finances needed to run your freelancing business.
Ideally you should have a safety net of three to six months of savings, which is what Lizzie Davey, founder of Wanderful World did “I was terrified! I think everyone is when they go freelance – not knowing when you’ll get your next pay check is scary. I’d saved up about 3 month’s expenses and stuff for a buffer and I set myself goals each month that I NEEDED to reach in order to pay my bills and basically live”.
If you’re are still transitioning from your fulltime job, you must realise that you will not have a steady pay check which will affect your insurances and other financial guarantees that you had in place. Plus you have liabilities to pay off.
It helps to budget and assess how much you need to survive over a particular time period, what kind of income you need to maintain your standard of living and pay for expenses, including allocating for business expenses and working around how long it will take you to start getting a stream of clients.
Carla Beth gave up her career as a teacher and is now a freelance copywriter. She advises “This area has been a learning curve for me. In the past when I was a writer I was essentially a casual employee, so I didn’t have any say over what I was paid. This time around I’ve registered as a business, set up a separate bank account, sorted out the necessary insurances – doing all those things reminds me that this IS a business, not a hobby.”
Sometimes, it helps to talk to a coach or financial advisor early on before you set-up business. ”They can give you tips on how to setup your accounts, tax obligations, deductions – all the money stuff,” advises Carla.
If you are in a dual income household, talking with your partner about your plans and discussing how your income can be supplemented to pay off your expenses, is an important first step. It’s healthy to discuss how sacrifices will be made in the first months when you are getting ready to launch your freelance business. “I was very fortunate that my husband had a steady job and was supportive of my career change, so the transition was doable for us” explains Amy Keslinke, an Online Business Manager.
By understanding your financial obligations, you can cut back on unnecessary expenses and work on a plan to set up your freelancing rates based on your desired income and hours which you can dedicate to your business.
To start off, a simple spreadsheet will do the job of budgeting and keeping track of your expenses, income and invoices.
“I knew going in that keeping track of mileage and all expenses was important. Making sure to not throw away any receipt unless it was already digitally documented is a high priority,” says Leanne Moore, a Graphic and Web designer.
“You need to set aside money in your business. It took me way too long to realize this. Finding clients, meeting with prospects, and everything else that doesn’t translate to a line item on an invoice is overhead,” says Brennan Dunn, from Double Your Freelancing, stressing on how important it is to save money when you start your own business and creating that safety net that you need.
2. SET UP YOUR BUSINESS
Setting up your business can feel overwhelming in the beginning and you don’t know where to start.
You start with making goals – simple ones about what you want to achieve in the next three months, six months and after 12 months. Define the kind of clients you want to work with and specify your niche.
Research your competitors to see what they are doing with their freelance business. Are they offering what you want to offer? What strategies are they using? What are their weaknesses? Can you fulfil those for your potential client?
By researching, defining your niche and clients and setting your goals you can now formulate service packages for your business.
Create your website and online presence by sprucing up your social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. There are several cost effective options for setting up your website or online portfolio.
Do your research and look for what works for you in terms of your budget, your goals and the field that you are in. For example if you are a financial advisor you would not use platforms which emphasised design portfolios but would go for website platforms that offer you the tools to design a financial-based website.
Your website and online presence is your shopfront. And be creating a web presence you can now market your services, target your dream clients and watch your business grow.
Create a professional working space for yourself so that you are organised with your paper work and other business stuff that you might need. This can be the spare room in your house which you have longed to redecorate or you go and buy a new desk and bookshelf for a corner in your kitchen – the very act of setting up your professional space will fire up your business juices, getting you ready to launch your business.
3. GETTING THE WORD OUT
While you really want to get knee deep into the nitty gritty of setting up your business, you should be focussing on finding those paying clients.
Dedicate each day to letting people know about your business.
Sherri Leah Henkin of Content Clarified explains her four steps for starting your marketing process:
- Reach out to family, friends and colleagues notifying them of the change and about your business.
- Update LinkedIn profile and follow up with colleagues.
- Explore professional groups on Facebook and participate in them.
- Join Meetups or other in-person networking events in your area.
Additionally go out and meet the local community and let them know that you are open for business. Talk to as many people as you can. You never know a coffee date with old friends might turn into an opportunity for a potential client.
Lizzie scored $2000 in her first month and there haven’t been any months where she hasn’t made enough to pay off her bills. She advises “I started out with a website and guest posting. Each day I researched potential companies I could work with and reached out to them, and I scoured every single job board I could find and just fired off application after application. It was relentless in the beginning, but when it started to pay off it was worth it. You have to be really motivated and persistent in the beginning.”
Your marketing does not end here though. Remember that you are now a business owner and you should treat your freelancing career as a business. Part of that, is to formulate a structured marketing plan. This doesn’t have to extensive plan which stresses you out but you can learn a few essential tactics to market your business successfully without breaking the bank balance.
4. LEARNING NEW SKILLS
For you to manage your freelance business, you will need to learn new skills and enhance your knowledge base with new topics.
There are a dearth of online classes and courses you can take up but be prudent in picking the right one for you. Go with the ones that are offered by industry leaders or notable influencers, or look for the ones that give you actionable in-depth knowledge which you can apply to your business.
Subscribe to industry blogs, read about new developments, learn about what’s trending and keep yourself up-to-date so that your business stays up-to-date and on target.
Beth Colman, an ecommerce business writer explains “After beginning my research into freelance writing as a career, I discovered Jorden Roper, who writes informative blogs and has a YouTube channel. I basically followed her advice to a T!”
5. DEALING WITH EMOTIONS
Emotions are part and parcel of any new venture and you will go through a range of those from fear, disappointment, frustration and loneliness.
It helps to come to term with a few realities about freelancing life right at the beginning. This will keep you grounded and help you work through those emotionally charged days.
“Whenever I get panicky about not having enough clients, or think that I can’t sustain this kind of hustling lifestyle forever, I remind myself that my success is down to me. No one else is going to go out there and get clients for me. But it’s also important to be kind to yourself “, says Lizzie
You will be working alone on most days. Freelancing is a very lonely profession and if you thrive on working with colleagues, this will be quite a challenge for you.
Usually you will start your day once your kids are off to school and your partner is off to work, leaving you in your newly set up office to begin your business day. On some days this will get at you and you will long for people to chat with. Sherri advises “As a technical writer, I like working alone; easier for me to focus. I work in coffee dates or dinner dates with friends and I add small group social activities during evenings or weekends.”
It is important to find a support network. They could be your family or friends or people you collaborate with. Join online communities like Facebook groups where you’ll meet like-minded people with whom you can collaborate with, learn from and even promote your services to.
If working alone is really not your thing then find a co-working space which gives you the benefits of a traditional office but without the distractions of internal office politics, according to the 2015 Harvard Business Review.
The same support systems will help you deal with other emotions like anxiety and frustrations which you face from time to time as you work tirelessly to make your venture a success. “In this business it’s easy to feel like you’re not doing all you can do and to feel like a failure in some aspects. It’s important to have people in your circle who have been there before and with whom you can relate to,” says Leanne who loves the freedom offered by freelancing.
6. WORKING 24/7
You will probably be tempted to work all hours and even on weekends foregoing time with family or a movie night with friends.
Your freelancing business should be treated as a 9-to-5 job. It is essential to exercise discipline and plan your work schedule around your working hours. This gives you the time to relax and unwind.
And always schedule time for fun. Do things outside of your work that makes you happy.
“It’s definitely important to know when to draw the line. At first I kept finding myself working well into the evening and feeling guilty if I were to do anything else in the day. Now I plan my tasks down to the hour. That way I can enjoy guilt-free fun in the afternoon and at the weekend,” says Colman.
“Becoming a freelancer can be liberating — and also a little terrifying” says Amy Gallo from the Harvard Business Review.
That pretty much sums up every freelancer’s emotion and their deliberation over taking the plunge.
Sometimes you are forced into freelancing like Carla and Leanne were or perhaps you realise you are not using your full potential at your job like Sherri did. Sometimes your career is not heading in the direction you want it to which is what made Beth take up freelancing or like Amy you want to be in charge of your own time and schedule, while for Lizzie it was her desire to work for herself.
There are many reasons why freelancing seems like a better option for you and you’re willing to work for it.
There is no perfect time for you to start. If you have come this far, you’re probably more than ready to take the plunge.
So just do it!