Are you working full-time and seeking a more flexible schedule, or are you taking care of your home and family full-time but considering adding freelancing? Regardless of the reasons or why you are considering working on a freelance basis, I’d like share some of the tips that have helped me over the past six months find a rhythm and accept the ups and downs that freelancing brings.
First of all, transitioning from full-time employment is just that — a transition. I was looking forward to more flexibility in my schedule while being able to be home more often with the boys, but it’s not to say that this new schedule doesn’t have its own obstacles. While I don’t have to worry if I have a meeting scheduled at the same time as a doctor’s appointment, I know if I choose to go to that doctor’s appointment I’ll likely need to wake up extra early to make a deadline. That said, here’s what I’ve learned over the past several months, and I hope this encourages or help you if you are considering making a switch.
- Recognize that nothing is permanent. Stepping out of full-time work is scary. Full-time employment offers security that freelancing rarely does. No guaranteed retirement. No guaranteed clients. It’s up to you now. But if you do choose this path, you can always go back. It may not be the exact same job, but no season of your life is forever. If you are considering the move, it’s worth evaluating, and don’t let fear stand in your way.
- Talk to others who have done it before. I have so many mentors and friends who guided me along (and some didn’t even realize it). Ask them about their experiences with freelancing. What has worked? What hasn’t? What would they do differently?
- Nurture your network. Whether it’s past employers, friends, or colleagues, your network is more important now than ever before. While there are plenty of great websites to find online work like Upwork, Flexjobs and LinkedIn ProFinder, I’ve gotten the most exciting, rewarding and reliable work from my own network. Many businesses need the flexibility of freelancers, and you may be exactly who they are looking for!
- Ride the waves. Freelance work can be really busy one minute where you feel like you don’t have enough minutes in the day, and the next moment you’re a little nervous because you aren’t sure where your next assignment is coming from. I made it a point to do “new business” outreach once per week simply for the purpose of keeping that pipeline warm. Again, my current network is the most reliable, but it’s important to keep reaching out, even if only digitally.
- Choose your niche. As a full-time employee, I had the benefit of having my hands in a lot of areas of marketing, which helped me learn a lot. But just because I had a say on the strategy of something did not make me an expert, and did not mean I should do that work on a freelance basis. I narrowed down my areas of expertise, and stick to those when it comes to work. As a freelancer, you rarely have the time or ability to collaborate like you did in an office setting, so you need to be really, really confident in your work.
- Prioritize learning. As a freelancer, you are the ONLY person who will prioritize the importance of training for yourself. You no longer have a boss who is mandating a certain number of training hours or suggesting a conference. And not only does it mean that you need to find the time, but you often have to front the bill for training too. However, if you don’t do this, your skills could become stale. Find 2-4 blogs in your area of expertise and subscribe to their newsletters. I find this is the easiest way to make sure you are getting information right away and stay on top of trends.
- Invest in a website. Do as a say not as I do – I haven’t done this yet. But a high quality website that showcases your areas of expertise and samples will go a long way, especially if you are applying for new projects online. My friend Whitney Jones created an incredible website recently to launch her consulting business, it’s a great example of a clean website that represents her brand online.
- Talk to your financial advisor. It goes without saying that now you are also in charge of putting money aside for taxes since it’s not being taken out of your paycheck each month. Be sure you figure out how much you should be putting aside or tax season could get ugly. Also – with freelancing comes an honest assessment of your family’s financial situation. How will your freelance income be used? How will you set money aside for slower months? These are important questions to evaluate with your spouse, and is an important and personal conversation based on your own family’s financial situation.
- Build your own network. I found one of the most valuable ways to show value to your clients is providing referrals to other freelancers in areas where you do not have expertise. This shows that you know the right people to refer them to and that you have their best interests in mind. Oftentimes other freelancers will return the favor when they can as well. This is how I have received several jobs – referrals from other freelancers.
- Figure out the best work environment. The difference between out-of-home work and freelancing is now you have no guaranteed office space. And depending on your own work style, you may or may not like a traditional office environment. Do you work better in a home office, your neighborhood Starbucks or on your couch? Figuring this out will help tremendously before you begin working, and allow you to concentrate when you do sit down to finish a job.
Want to read more from other women who have transitioned to freelancing or starting their own businesses? You may like these posts:
Have you transitioned to freelancing? Are you enjoying it and what tips do you have?