So you think you’re ready to ditch the 9-to-5 and finally strike out on your own as a freelancer? Congratulations — but don’t get ahead of yourself! Freelancing can be extremely rewarding and liberating, but to do it successfully, you gotta plan and prepare. Here’s what you’ve got to straighten out before you start drafting your resignation letter.
1. Calculate how much you need to survive
Chances are, you’re not going to make as much as you’re making in your “steady” job, at least not for the first few months of freelancing. You also won’t have the benefits you enjoyed in your job, like sick leaves, health insurance, and a retirement plan. Calculate just how much you need to make to cover your expenses, with some money left over to save and invest.
2. Save up
You’ll want to set aside at least two months’ salary to tide you over as you figure things out. If you haven’t got much in your savings, start cutting back as much as you can. Because you won’t have a regular salary to depend on, you’ll also have to get used to spending less, so it’s best to start early.
3. Figure out how much you’re going to charge
Even though you’ve been working in your industry for years, freelancing is a totally different experience. Will you be charging per hour? Per project? Ask other freelancers about their rates to figure out how much you should be charging. It’s also a good idea to track how long it takes you to accomplish different tasks, so you know what kind of jobs you should be charging more for.
4. Prepare to treat yourself like a business
Freelancing isn’t a hobby you get paid for. It’s a business, and you’re the product. Treat yourself accordingly. File the necessary paperwork so you can pay taxes and issue receipts. Set up an online portfolio. Print out calling cards. The more professional you appear, the more likely clients are going to take seriously.
5. Set up your home office
If you have the money, you can invest in getting a membership at your nearest coworking space, but if you’re just starting out, you’re probably going to have to settle for working from home. While that may sound like a dream, actually getting work done when you’re surrounded by the distractions of your home environment can be close to impossible. Dedicate a space in your home for work and nothing else.
6. Get used to being your own boss
Maybe you could get away with slacking off at your job and wasting hours watching cat videos, but that won’t fly when you’re freelancing. As a freelancer, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. It’s that simple. Set a work schedule and stick to it. Avoid distracting websites, or even block hem off entirely during certain parts of the day.
7. Reconnect with your network
Your professional connections are going to play a crucial role in your new freelance career, so it’s time to rifle through your box of business cards and catch up with people you haven’t connected with for a while. Revisit your LinkedIn account and engage with people there. Email old colleagues and inform them of your plans. The stronger your network, the more likely you are to succeed.
8. Start looking for clients
You don’t want to spend the first few weeks as a freelancer scrambling for work. Even while working at your 9-to-5 job, begin looking for work. You could even start working for these clients during the weekends. Just don’t let your new side-gigs affect your current job — you never know, your current employer could well be a potential client in the future.
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