As a freelancer, you know the benefits of working on your own schedule, and on projects you’re passionate about. If you're already freelancing part-time and considering a transition to freelancing full-time, you’re in luck because opportunities are more abundant than ever. CIO Magazine reports the number of people hired as freelance workers has steadily increased in the past two years and is only expected to rise. The change from side work to full-time freelancing can be challenging, but solid preparation of finances, networking and marketing can give you an advantage.
Some full-time freelancers may save six months' to a year's worth of income before quitting their full-time jobs. This is to avoid stress in case it takes some time to get your freelancing career off the ground. Even seasoned freelancers may experience dry spells depending on their clients' needs and the market, so socking money away is wise even when you have have steady work. Consider creating a separate savings account to prepare for your freelancing career. This helps you separate business and personal spending from the get-go and motivates you to cut costs where you can so you can save.Once you have enough saved and are ready to leave your full-time job, go through this checklist:
1. Talk with financial and business experts.
2. Consider setting up a limited liability company (LLC) to separate business assets from personal ones.
3. Obtain a business credit card to help you keep those costs separate.
4. Incorporate a system like QuickBooks Self-Employed to keep track of mileage, separate business and personal expenses, keep track of receipts, find money-saving deductions and set enough money aside for taxes.
5. Set up an independent contractor agreement (and better understand non-disclosure agreements) with the help of a lawyer.
Pricing structures for freelancers are never one-size-fits-all, and factors such as experience, project tasks, scope and time all contribute to how much you should be charging. Since your aim is to make as much or more money than you earned for your full-time job, it's essential to price accordingly.A freelance tax calculator can help determine anticipated tax payments. By calculating expenses — including household, business, taxes, savings and entertainment — then examining how many days and hours you are able to work, you can find a rate that works for you.
Before you make the leap, create a website with a dedicated domain that matches your name or LLC brand. This way you’ll have somewhere to point clients. Set it up yourself with WIX, Wordpress or SquareSpace, or pay a professional to design it for you. Display contact information, areas of specialty and any examples of your work and credibility.
Working in a home office is ideal for some freelancers. They can prepare dinner during a mid-day break, take the dog for a walk when he gets restless and be closer to young kids. Others, however, may need to get out of the house to be productive.If you find that being a freelancer is isolating, a co-working space like WeWork might work well for you. Interact and get inspired by other creatives.Libraries, coffee shops and anywhere with Wi-Fi can become your new office. Your surroundings can either maximize your productivity or diminish it. Find your ideal conditions:
Light — Some freelancers work best at night, with only the glow of the computer screen. Others are energized by plenty of natural sunlight.
Noise — You might love listening to your favorite music to get the creative juices flowing. Or noise-canceling headphones may be a necessity to focus.
Design — All your surroundings affect how you work. Consider everything from the artwork on the walls to how comfortable that office chair is (or isn’t).
After you’ve set up your finances, your online presence and your workspace, let your network know your plans and what type of work you're looking for.Send a note to those in your LinkedIn network, tell your friends, make an announcement on Twitter, and get some business cards printed so you can easily hand them out to relevant new contacts. Join a freelancing platform that is matched up with your area of expertise. You may reach out to a recruiter who can interview you and learn your strengths, then send you freelance work opportunities that match up. Create a list of the top industries and companies you want to work for, then reach out to them. Tell them about the type of work you do. Every person you meet, from your cab driver to the other parents at your children's school, can be potential new leads in attracting work. Attend events — such as networking parties or conferences related to your industry — to make connections with other professionals who might be future referrals. Meeting with others allows you to add an important social aspect to your job, gain valuable advice and build relationships with mentors and peers.
Every job is the chance to get a future referral. Even if you're not thrilled with the project and eventually decide the client isn’t a good fit for you, you'll still want to retain their respect in case your relationship leads to future business. Stay on top of technology trends and educate yourself about developments in your field. You'll be able to make better recommendations to clients and turn in up-to-date, impressive work. This leads to more work for you, and when you want to raise your rates in a year, you'll be viewed as more deserving.Being self-employed can help you achieve the work-life balance you want, allow you to find projects you love and become a stronger professional as a result. By being prepared, you set yourself up for success and can better navigate challenges you may face.Want to learn more about how to prepare for self-employment? Check out these additional resources for freelancers.