The stress-free way to test out self-employment

Jun 26, 2015

With over 53 million Americans opting to forego traditional careers, in exchange for the risks and rewards of working remotely as freelancers, we're seeing an unprecedented shift in the way companies function around the world.

Hiring freelancers is becoming more attractive for many businesses and the reasons are obvious: Fewer taxes, lower employee-related expenses, no health care, less office space, the list goes on...

These are but a handful of the reasons many companies seek freelance writers, designers, marketers, and developers to help grow their businesses.

It’s not so easy to become a full-time freelancer overnight, however. There are a lot of skills you need to pick up, countless business practices to learn, and many strategic decisions to be made.

So, how do those of us - regardless of age - who want to be gainfully self-employed go about getting started with our careers as entrepreneurs?

We all have bills that need to be paid, expenses that don't just magically go away overnight once we decide to chase our dreams. For most, immediately quitting our day jobs to pursue working freelance full-time is not feasible.

Because I didn't want to go into debt or seek outside funding to get my freelance business off the ground, I chose to start freelancing on the side during my personal time before work, afterwards, and on weekends.

That experience taught me how much hard work it takes to launch a freelance business while juggling a full-time job. But, when I started running my own freelance business full-time, it was well worth the extra hours right.

It’s essential to build up a runway of clients and income already flowing in before you up and quit your job, unless you're willing to blow through potentially a lot of savings or take on some credit debt.

I'm all for calculated risks, so this one is simple to me: I need to bring in as much income as my current job affords me, or close enough to it that I can justify quitting to focus full-time on client acquisition, before I even consider leaving.

By spending 10-20hrs per week landing freelance clients and working on their projects, you're going to get a very clear gauge on just how much work it is running your own business.

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You'll learn all the different hats that need to be worn, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and you’ll be perfecting your business practices without the stress of needing the income – because you still have your job for that.

You’ll get a lot of experience very quickly – and you’ll be honing your abilities under circumstances that are within your control. You’re not under the gun to immediately take on an overwhelming number of clients. Instead, you can focus on delivering very high quality work on a small number of projects.

Most importantly, if you’re spending your limited free time working on multiple projects at a time, you’ll learn very quickly if you’re passionate about writing, designing, or whatever task you may be doing. You’ll also learn the types of industries you enjoy working in and what kind of customers you tend to work best with!

Pro tip: When starting out, most freelancers tend to greatly undervalue their services. As you’re bidding on a freelance project, I recommend starting higher than you think you should. Focus on communicating how much value you will deliver for the client, and lean heavily on past accomplishments and results.

If you can find a way to dedicate a few hours each day to your freelance business while you’re still working full-time, you’ll have no trouble running your own business in the future. Whether you get up at 5:00am or stay up late to work on your projects, you’re training yourself for to become a disciplined full-time freelancer.

New to freelancing? Get your most pressing questions answered in the How to get started freelancing Hive!

Join my course on Writing a Winning Freelance Project Proposal to learn how I win the clients I want for my freelance business.

Ryan Robinson is the Channel Marketing Lead: Money & Life at CreativeLive. He’s also an entrepreneur and marketer at where he teaches entrepreneurs how to start businesses while working.