Often viewed as the working dream, freelancing full time can be a lucrative alternative to the slog of a 9-5 (although let’s face it, we’ve all checked our work emails at 11pm). But instead of jumping straight into freelancing full time, it’s best to step back and take a slower and more strategic approach. It’ll help you in the long run, and make you a better, happier freelancer
Dip your toes in
If you can (and if you have time), give freelancing a test run whilst still working your regular job. While it might feel like an impossible task, with a bit of creative thinking and a flexible approach it is doable. From scheduling meetings and answering phone calls in your lunch break, to turning into a nocturnal work owl, it takes careful time management but it is (temporarily) possible.
Juggling both freelancing and full-time employment certainly isn’t the easy option, but it will give you an idea of what freelancing will be like. You might decide that freelancing isn’t for you, and it’s definitely best to discover this before you quit your job and start doing it full time.
Save, save and save some more
When you set out as a freelancer, you can’t guarantee a steady income rolling in every month. Before you step away from the financial security of your job, start saving up a buffer for those quieter months (or those weeks where you might want to go on a holiday that doesn’t involve being glued to patchy overpriced WiFi).
Ideally, aim for a target equivalent of three month’s salary. However, if you can achieve closer to six, you’ll be in a much stronger position should you face any late payments or cancelled contracts. Having this financial back-up will give you one less thing to stress over; and if it turns out that you don’t need it, you could use part of it as an annual bonus.
Find a work space
You probably don’t think you’ll miss your work station, but after four months of cramming your laptop, files and notepads into the spare corner of your dining room table? You probably will.
If you’re planning to work from home, create a designated work space. It’ll help you focus right from day one, and help keep you on top of things. If working from home isn’t for you, look into hiring an office or even just a desk space nearby. It can be surprisingly cheap to do so, plus it’ll stop you from getting cabin fever by month two.
Get some training
Whether its general skill gaps that you want to fill or you have areas of your job role that could do with a fresh update, getting trained up before you go freelance will mean that when you embark on your new career path you’re fully prepared. Undertaking your training first also means that your progress won’t be slowed by a lengthy course schedule. Training will boost your confidence, and you could end up making even more money in the long run, whether from new avenues you can now charge for, or from honing your soft skills such as time management.
The old saying about ‘prevention being better than a cure’ applies to freelancing. So, ask fellow freelancers what their advice would be, and cherry pick the insight which applies to you. It’s often the basics which become stumbling blocks, so don’t overlook throwaway anecdotes about late tax returns or how to deal with clients from hell. If you don’t know any freelancers in real life, there are plenty of blogs, LinkedIn posts and Tweeters who are open and honest about the pitfalls of freelancing. Do your homework on freelancing before diving in; even if it’s just to make sure that the grass really is greener.
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