Picture this – it’s Monday morning, you sleep in if you feel like it. You fly to the Bahamas if you feel like it. You walk over to your local coffee shop and do some work on your laptop if you feel like it.
If this lifestyle sounds ideal to you, you’re not alone. The growing population of freelancers in America is currently 57 million, amounting to 35% of the total workforce.
Long gone are the days of waiting until retirement to enjoy the freedom to do what you want, when you want. Instead, escaping the 9 to 5 to become a freelancer is the new American dream.
Whatever your reason to escape the rat race may be, quitting your job can still be frightening. And it’s not something you should jump into without having a solid plan of actionable steps to follow first.
Check out these top tips to help make the transition from employee to self-employed one of ease and grace.
1. Figure Out What You Want to Do
Firstly, decide what it is you want to do for freelance work. Are there skills or hobbies that you currently do on the side? Perhaps it’s time to put them center stage.
Or maybe you already have an idea of what you’d like to do, and you’ve even earned a bit of money doing it, but you’re just not sure it will cut it as a full-time gig. Now is the time to spread your wings and try.
Or better yet, maybe you have no idea at all – and that’s ok too. This step is just the first step in a long and fulfilling journey!
If you don’t know yet, take some time to sit with yourself and discover what it is you’re passionate about. Explore your current hobbies and skillsets – what could you see yourself spending your days doing happily?
Ask yourself as many tough questions as possible.
2. Assess Your Finances
One of the biggest concerns people have when switching to freelancing is the lack of a consistent paycheck. However, the potential to earn even more, doing that which you’re passionate about, is infinite.
As you build your clientele base, your income stream will become more and more regular. In the beginning, however, there may be gaps where you won’t know when or from where your next paycheck will come.
That can be unnerving at first, but having a solid plan in place will help ease this transition. Creating a list of your expenses, budgeting, creating a savings goal, and sticking to it, are all valuable tools on this journey.
Tuck away at least one year’s worth of living expenses to help take the pressure off you as you build your brand.
It may take some time to get off the ground running, but if you’re too sidetracked by how you’re going to pay next month’s rent, this could hinder your ability to focus on your new career.
Start with a pen and paper and begin by writing down all of your monthly expenses. Be as specific as you can. Here are some areas to think about:
- Car payment or transportation
Go through your bank statement and check for any recurring bills you may have missed. Small expenses can add up over the course of a year.
Find ways to cut back on unnecessary expenses. Those useless subscription services you find “semi-useful?” Gone. By working from home, you’ll naturally cut down on things like transportation and eating out for lunch.
4. Harness Your Skills
While you’re still at your current job, utilize this time to hone your new freelancing skills. If you choose to do something you already have experience with, begin picking up gigs on the weekends or after work.
Dabbling in projects now will help you build your portfolio and network of contacts in your desired freelance field. Additionally, this will act as an extra source of income, bringing you closer to your savings goal.
If you don’t already have experience in your desired field, invest in learning. Use your free time to cultivate your craft: take online courses, watch videos, and read as many books as you can on the subject.
5. Create a Business Plan
Be specific with your goals; that way, you’ll know when you’ve achieved them. If you have a vague goal like “I want to be successful,” define what success looks like to you, what it means to you – make it quantifiable.
Come up with a healthy mix of goals, short-term and long-term, to give you different markers to strive for both now and further down the road.
Some other helpful questions to ask yourself in this process include:
- What is your product or service?
- Who is your target market?
- How will you meet their needs?
- How much money do you want to earn?
- What will your pricing structure be?
6. Promote Yourself
Once you’re confident in your skills, you’ll have a solid foundation to begin building your brand. You’ll want to think about your online presence when starting to promote your services.
Websites and business cards will help to establish you as a business. Social media is another popular platform you can use for business marketing. Either way, an online presence will enable you to reach a wider audience.
Many online services can guide you in setting up a website, or hey – you can hire another freelancer to do it.
Don’t be afraid to talk about your business – tell your neighbors, tell your friends, tell your friends’ friends. Make some business cards and keep them handy to give out at any moment.
Attend events in your local area where you think people may be in the market for services like yours. Are you a crafter or costume designer? Go check out your local comic book fair.
8. Take the Big Leap: Quitting Your Job
Now, the scariest part – the leap of faith.
You may have initially been wondering how to quit your job, but the big question comes down to when to quit your job.
And if you’ve taken all of the above steps to prepare yourself, trust that you’ve already done the hard work. Quitting is the easiest part. So take a deep breath, call your mom if you need to, and go for it.
9. Manage Your Time Efficiently
The flexibility that comes with being your own boss also comes with additional responsibilities. As a result, it can be easy to procrastinate or lose track of time – habits that aren’t ideal when your brand is on the line.
Learning how to manage multiple projects is a skill you’ll need to master. As a freelancer, you may find times when you’re in a dry spell or have too many projects to handle in others. It can be overwhelming.
Take advantage of the online tools available, such as project management platforms that can help you with tasks like time-tracking, project outlining, and setting deadlines – so you can focus on your craft.
Ready to Succeed as a Freelancer?
Quitting your job to become a freelancer may be a scary prospect, but it is an equally fulfilling and rewarding experience that will show you just how capable you are. So grab life by the reigns and go for it!
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