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Working on your own might sound like a simple idea; you take all of your best habits from your time being employed and make them happen in the comfort of your own home, right?
Well, as many of the most successful freelancers will tell you – it’s often not quite that simple. Getting into freelancing is one of those situations where many of us don’t realize quite how much we’ve got until it’s gone.
If you’re new to working for yourself, or you’ve got a bit more experience but you’re still feeling a little lost, don’t worry, we’ve put together a guide that’ll help make the transition from employee to freelancer as smooth as possible…
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Starting your freelance journey part-time is a great way to ease yourself into the water. Sure, you might not be able to throw yourself in quite as fully as you’ve daydreamed about – but for many people it can be the difference between making it work and otherwise.
Even if you can’t freelance on top of 40+ hours a week fully employed, you might be able to start putting the systems into place (more on that soon) or start finding your first clients. There’s a chance you might be able to cut your hours down too – going part time at work and part time freelancing is a great first step.
Think about money
It’s worth considering that it might be a fairly long time between you starting your freelance career and actually getting your first pay check.
Even if you get the various necessary working infrastructures into place quickly, you may find that clients drag their heels on payment – and, if that’s the case, you don’t want to be left unable to pay your mortgage or rent.
Cutting down on your outgoings prior to starting as a freelancer is a good idea – you might not really want to compromise your lifestyle – but doing so could be the difference between making it – or running into some serious financial issues at a time when you really need to be focusing on your new role.
Further to the previous tip – if it’s at all possible, save as hard as you can before handing your resignation in and going it alone. You’ll have some quiet spells as a freelancer – and having a financial safety net can be the difference between being able to continue – or having to re-enter the job market.
Think about work subsidized plans
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What kind of benefits does you work provide at the moment? Health insurance? Retirement plans? It’s important to set up health insurance before your previous plan lapses – and your older self will thank you for staying in the habit of planning for retirement.
Freelance unions can be a great place to get more information on plans that are tailored for self-employed people, some even have their own policies that you can access if you’re a member – a great perk, considering membership is usually free or very cheap.
Read next: 10 Best Blogs about Freelancing
Create a business plan
There’s a lot to be said for getting your plan out of your head and on to paper. Think about:
- What you’ll be offering
- The equipment you’ll need
- The kind of client you’re looking for
- How you’ll win client business
- Your skillset and training needed
- Where you’ll work from
- How much you’ll be charging for your services
- Foreseeable problems and how you might tackle them
It’s not until you’re putting things on paper that additional thoughts, ideas and concerns crop up. It’s also useful to look back at your plans in a couple of week/months – and see if you’re progressing as you’d intended.
Think about a long-term plan
While we’re on the subject of planning – where is your freelancing career going to go?
If the answer involves increased prices, prestigious projects and impressive clients, you’ll need to think about the steps that you’re going to take to get you there. If you’re happy with freelancing being a lifestyle choice and your aspirations are modest, you might want to think about what that means to your financial situation longer term.
There’s no right or wrong answer – it’s just good to have a plan. Days can quickly turn into years – and with no roadmap, you can find yourself somewhere you didn’t intend to go.
Put systems in place
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Having solid ways of working for your behind-the-scenes processes is a sure-fire way of making sure your precious time is spent on your work projects – and not scrambling around as a result of being disorganized.
First and foremost, having financial systems in place is vital. Understand what’s coming in, what’s going out – and what you’re going to be paying in tax. The sooner you put this in place, the sooner you can work out exactly how much work you need to take on to make the living you anticipated.
From here, you’ll probably want to think about how to manage your projects – that could be as simple as a spreadsheet – or it could be collaborative project management software, it all depends on you, your role and your what your clients require.
Make a workspace
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The overwhelming majority of freelancers work from home – and while that cuts down on the business overheads, it also means you’ve often got a sofa (and possibly a comfy looking bed) just a few steps away.
Here’s a tough fact – you’re absolutely not going to get as much work done if you’re slumped on your bed with your laptop on your knee. So, set up a workspace. Even if that’s half of your dining table for now.
In time, having a dedicated desk, comfortable chair (assuming you spend a lot of time at a PC) or even a dedicated room can massively boost your productivity.
Treat it like work
Even if you follow the previous tip, you might still find yourself sitting at your workspace with that fresh-out-of-bed look for most of the day.
Everyone’s done it – but it’s not the route to producing your best work or keeping yourself feeling good about freelancing. Set some working hours, get up, have some breakfast, take a shower, get into some ‘work’ clothes and show up.
That might sound formal – but striking the right work/life balance can be tricky if you work for yourself at home. It helps to somewhat distinguish what’s work time – and what’s your own time to spend away from the desk or with family.