Finally, finally, finally. I finally achieved my goal of becoming a full-time freelance writer, and it feels great! I’ve been working hard over the past year, taking one small step at a time, to get to a place where I can support myself with my writing. It took a lot of overtime, a lot of disappointment and a lot of encouragement, but in August, I was able to resign from my job and take the plunge. Now here I am. Finally freelance.
Thinking you want to make the move to freelance, too? It really is a wonderful setup, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s an easy transition. Some people make it look like a breeze, but mark my words, they’re fakers. The best way I have to describe the reality of (successful) freelancing is with this amazing illustration by Mari Andrew:
Take it in. I mean really take it in. I’ll give you a second.
Still want to become a full-time freelancer? If you’re sure you’re ready, here are my tips:
1. Plan for the Long-Haul
As much as you might want to quit your job and become a freelancer right this minute, that’s really not a good idea. Building up a base of clients is no easy feat—it’s going to take time and patience, and that means you’ll probably need to stay in your current job for a while.
How long is “a while”? Obviously it varies, but I’d recommend giving yourself a year (or more) to adequately prepare for the transition. Personally, it took me about ten months from when I first decided “Yes, I want to do this,” until I felt confident leaving my job.
2. Take It One Step at a Time
One of the reasons you should give yourself plenty of time is because you’ll want to build your client base gradually. It’s tempting to go out and take on five new clients at once, but I speak from experience when I say that the first few weeks with a new client are delicate and tricky.
If you try to onboard too many new clients at once, something’s bound to slip through the cracks.
In those first few weeks—sometimes even months—you’re figuring out just what your client is expecting, and this is the prime time to establish a solid relationship that will enable you to retain the business long-term. It’s easier to do this and do it well if you focus on one job at a time. If you try to onboard too many new clients at once, something’s bound to slip through the cracks. That’s not the way you want to start your business.
3. Be Strategic
On a related note, don’t just take on clients for the sake of having work to do. Pick your jobs strategically—and again, it helps if you’re not crunched for time in doing this.
Why does it matter? Well, for one, you don’t want clients that pay $10 per article (or sometimes less, which is honestly disgusting). You’ll never be able to support yourself that way. Take your time and find clients that will appreciate your craft and pay what you’re worth.
Second, you should try to acquire at least a few clients in the industry you ultimately want to work in. If you want to be a tech writer but only take on lifestyle jobs, you’re going to make it harder for yourself to find amazing gigs in the long run.
That said, is it always possible to score dream clients when you’re starting out? Not at all. However, the bottom line is that you should carefully evaluate each potential client and question whether it’s a good fit—don’t just say yes to a job because someone finally wants to hire you.
4. Have a Support System
Striking out on your own is challenging, frustrating and often downright discouraging. As such, it’s imperative to surround yourself with people who believe in you and your dreams.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that I couldn’t have made the transition to freelance without my support system. Every time I needed to bounce ideas off someone, vent, cry, enthuse about the future or whatever else, my friends and family were there to support me, and that was more helpful than they may ever know.
5. Give Yourself Permission
Finally, if you’re anything like me, somewhere along your journey you’ll need to tell yourself that it’s OK to step off the beaten path. What do I mean? Every time I used to think about quitting my full-time, stable, well-paying job, I would get this nagging feeling that I “wasn’t doing what I was supposed to.” And to be fair, I wasn’t—I wasn’t following the status quo. I wasn’t taking the typical career path like my peers. I was daring to be different and to think outside the box, and that’s so scary.
At the end of the day, though, it’s OK to venture onto an uncertain, less-traveled path. Just make sure it’s what’s right for you and that you’re prepared for whatever comes your way. It won’t always be easy, but it will be worth it. Plus, if I can do it, you can to!
Want to talk more about making the switch to freelance? Reach out! I’d love to talk.