Time for another Freelance Diaries post, and today we’re talking all about how to know when it’s time to go freelance. Whether you’re thinking of making the jump now, or just fancy doing some research for the future, here’s what I’ve learned about how to make the transition to full-time freelancing. Don’t forget to check out my previous Freelance Diaries posts for lots more freelancing tips!
Been thinking about going freelance?
The first step towards going freelance is to think seriously about it all. I’m sure we’ve all had that “I wish I could work from home and not answer to anyone” feeling, but once this becomes more than just a passing thought, perhaps it’s time to consider freelancing as a serious option.
Freelance life isn’t for everyone (as well as the perks, there are also long and sometimes unsociable hours, unstable income, lack of company benefits, no paid leave and a whole lot of responsibility), so make sure it’s something you’d be comfortable doing before jumping straight in. Read blog posts, speak to freelance friends or go to networking events to get a feel for what freelancing is really like.
Be in a stable financial situation
The first few months, at least, are going to be pretty unpredictable when it comes to your earnings. If possible, try to save up for a few months before starting your freelance career. Everyone is in a different financial situation, so the amount you’ll need to save up will vary a lot – just make sure you have enough to cover you for a few months, or you have the support of a partner/family member who can help with your bills, just in case.
I went freelance in my mid-twenties and I think this was a great time to do it. The only responsibilities I had were my rent and regular monthly bills, so I didn’t have to worry about keeping up with mortgage payments, paying for children, saving for a wedding or anything like that. Of course, it’s completely possible to go freelance if you do have those kinds of responsibilities, but it’s probably worth saving up for a bit longer to give you a safety net. Once you feel comfortable financially, you’ll also feel much more ready to make the jump to freelance life.
Research your industry
Before you go freelance, do a little bit of research to find out more about your industry. What services will you be offering, and is there a demand for them? Can you fill a gap in the local market, or will you need to look further afield for work? Is the industry oversaturated, and is there a way you can stand out? How much do other freelancers in your industry charge?
Ask yourself questions like these and try to find a niche for yourself within your industry. There’s no point putting in all the effort into going freelance, only to find out there’s no market for your services. Gather together some examples of other freelancers you admire and learn from them – you might even want to drop them an email to ask some more specific questions.
Create a portfolio and do some networking
Clients aren’t going to hire you unless you can prove you’re good at what you do. Set up a website and social media (luckily I was able to combine my freelance work with my blog, so this was already taken care of!), and create a portfolio of previous work. Include relevant examples of work you’ve previously done, whether that’s something from your full-time job, a small freelance project you’ve done on the side, or a personal project that showcases your skills.
In the freelance world, your portfolio is much more important than a CV. Include case studies, examples and testimonials rather than just listing what you can do. Networking is also really important. I hate traditional networking (as I’ve talked about here), but found that connections I already had were invaluable when I started freelancing. Before making the jump, start putting the feelers out and let friends, colleagues and social media connections know you’re looking for work.
You might even want to pick up a few freelance projects whilst you’re working full-time, to start building up your portfolio (just be careful not to break any company policies or step on any toes at your current job). Once you’ve got a few clients (or at least potential leads) under your belt, you’ll feel ready to go freelance.
Redundancy and quitting your job
When it comes to the final quitting-the-day-job stage, it usually happens in one of two ways. Either you’ve been made redundant or had to leave your job for some reason, or you’ve had to make the decision to hand in your notice and quit. For me, it was the first option. After I was made redundant, I decided that if I was ever going to give freelancing a go, now was the time.
In one way, I think this option makes it much easier to go freelance – the decision has really been made for you, you’ve already lost the stability of your full-time job, so you don’t really have anything else to lose by trying freelancing. On the other hand, if it’s you who has to make the decision to hand in your notice, you might spend months deliberating whether you’re willing to give up the stability that a full-time job brings.
If you hate your job (but love the work you do), it’s probably time to go freelance. If you long to work for yourself without the drama of office politics, it’s probably time to go freelance. If you have big ideas that you can’t make use of in your current role, it’s probably time to go freelance. If you get excited at the thought of building your own business to suit your lifestyle and skills, it’s probably time to go freelance. If going freelance is something you’re passionate about, you’ll just know when it feels right.
Have you made the jump to full-time freelancer? Let me know if you have any tips for knowing when it’s the right time to do it!