How to transition to full-time freelancing

Sep 09, 2020

Between the ever-growing demands of our busy lifestyles and the steep increase in automation, it can be hard for some of us to find fulfilling work in the corporate sector.

However, switching from a secure career with a familiar routine and other “knowns” to the world of freelancing can be challenging, costly, and sometimes even downright frightening.

Here are a few tips to overcome these challenges for a rewarding transition to freelancing:

Be prepared to answer some difficult questions

Obviously we can’t foresee the future, but we can try to come up with obstacles we might face and plan for them.

Some questions you’ll need to consider are:

Who is my audience and what can I offer them?

Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Start by considering your skills and honing them. This will help you determine what product or service you can offer. It may seem overwhelming to work an extra hour or two after an already exhausting day, but imagine how much more exhausting it is to build an entire client base from scratch when the pressure is on.

I asked Andriy Haydash, founder of Progmatiq, about seeing his web designing business grow even though it is a highly saturated market. This is what he had to say:

“Specializing has been one of the best decisions that I've taken in my freelancing career and it has helped me tremendously get more clients and set higher rates.”  

Once your product or service is solid, the right calls to action to use should become more apparent.

How much should I offer my services for?

Start by doing customer market research, and be specific. Geographical location can make a huge difference in what people are interested in and what they’re willing to pay for it, for example, and you need to remain competitive without undervaluing your work.

Maybe you’re not confined by location at all. In that case, consider your niche, because now you may be fighting global competition.  

How much money do I need to set aside?

Financial can sometimes deter people from joining the freelance world, but it can be done with a lot of planning and discipline. Thankfully, there are resources out there to help us!  

Experts recommend paring down expenses, consolidating or altogether eliminating debt, and having at least a year’s worth of income before launching your own operation.

Additionally, you will need an e-wallet to facilitate transactions. This will also provide advantages such as low deposit charges and seamless global service.

Save, save, save, and future you will thank you.

Switching to freelance work is a lifestyle change

“I’ll do it tomorrow” doesn’t usually work at your job now, so why would it be different for freelance work?  Only, now it’s up to you to maintain your schedule and workflow.  Yikes!

Here's how to be the best boss you've ever had:

Set a new routine

Most people thrive on routines, especially when making tough life decisions like leaving a corporate job.  This may mean you start with a cup of joe, go for a run, then sit (or stand!) at your desk... after you shower, of course.  

It takes practice for new habits to kick in, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t achieve the workflow you want right away.

Know when you’re most productive

Some folks may work well in the morning and start to nod off around 3 PM, while others may become alive only when the sun goes down. If your clients are not depending on you to be available at specific hours, it’s up to you to know when and how you work best.

Pro Tip: Taking down notes to see where you stand at any given point is key to balancing work and life.

Set goals and objectives to measure your success

Goals don’t work in a vacuum.  Theoretically, you could set a goal and accomplish it...eventually.  But no one just “buys a house.”  They follow steps in a process to achieve that goal, and each of those steps has at least one measurable objective.  

Even if it’s something as simple as using a productivity checklist, it’s a place to start!  And those check marks feel great, don’t they?

Don’t be afraid to reevaluate your goals if you find something just isn’t working for you.

Network like your life depends on it

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but no contact is insignificant!  After all, your bartender may be a future member of Congress.

Even current or prospective customers could end up being your biggest brand advocates.  

When all else fails, referral and/or collaborative programs can help you make new connections and share your brand.  Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from old colleagues or friends who have done something similar to what you want to achieve and show your appreciation.

To quote Georgi Todorov, founder of DigitalNovas, “The best way to look for a freelance job might be one of usual platforms for finding a job, but be creative - use a team collaboration software, invite your connections, Facebook business group friends and even LinkedIn friends….

Remember, a relationship-based community is the best way for anyone who wants to be recognized by a potential employer.”

If you are still a student but feeling the stress of the current situation, you might want to look at different resources to find a job. Limiting yourself to job portals is not going to cut it in this hypercompetitive market.

The devil is in the details

Working for yourself means minding every part of your business, whether it just consists of you or you manage others as well. You are in charge, down to every last detail.

Insurance

Don’t forget to budget for insurance, which is no small task.  There are many options, though pricing will, of course, depend on your level of coverage. At the very least, you should have health insurance for yourself and your family.

Taxes

Prepare yourself. Most sources recommend putting aside about 25-30% of your wages to pay quarterly taxes, since this is not accounted for in your paychecks.

You will also need to submit the proper tax documents to the individual or company providing you with work, if applicable.  

Adapt for the digital age

The corporate sector has a different set of internal communication tools, productivity trackers, and more that might not be the best fit for your use.

Even your sales funnel needs to be adapted as you need to rethink the way you communicate with prospects to stand out from competition.  

Get your books in order

Find software or maybe even another freelancer to help you with this, if you are not numbers-savvy.  

It’s OK to outsource (you can’t do it all)

As a freelancer, building your brand means everything. Create yourself a portfolio, website, and find additionals way to market yourself. If you have the funds, you could even hire another freelancer to help start and grow your online presence.

Julia Masselos is a writer for Toggl hire, a hiring sidekick designed to help hire talent faster and more fairly. She has both worked as a freelancer and hired freelancers. She writes, “There are plenty of guides online on how to become a freelancer, but not as many on how to hire a freelancer. The internet is a vast place and finding the right person to do a job for you can be quite challenging.”

Then...jump!

We know it’s hard to voluntarily reach for the unknown, but learning how to mitigate risks by being prepared should help guide you.

The end result of achieving the hours, workflow and overall lifestyle you crave is well worth the risks.

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send us your blog post.

Himaan Chatterji

Himaan Chatterji is a B2B freelance content developer and a full-time digital nomad working with SaaS brands around the world to create a web of interconnected long-form actionable resources.