I’m so excited to introduce guest, Rebecca Harper, a freelance writer and occasional creative sort living in London. After studying for a degree in English, she decided to pursue a freelance career as a journalist. As this article suggests, she occasionally caves and gets sucked into a full-time job, and has made the switch to freelancing more than she’d like to admit. You can find her on Twitter.
You’ve probably seen all the Facebook marketing funnels offering a six figure salary to any freelancer who is able to master this “one simple trick”. Unfortunately, there is no simple trick, and the secret to success as a freelancer is planning, planning and more planning. As a serial job hopper, I could tell you some horror stories about being in full-time employment (the time I got fired, the shame) and about being a freelancer (no, seriously, can you pay that invoice now?). I’ve managed to wrangle a career out of having perpetually itchy feet. One minute I miss the freedom, the next I miss the flexibility. I’ve made the switch from employee to freelancer three times, and back again, and I’ve learnt a few tricks along the way.
Have a plan
Many people fall into a creative freelance career because they have marketable skills and a rough idea about what they want to do. Instagram is full of the success stories (#solopreneur) but it rarely shows the hustle that go into building a successful freelance business. A solid business plan is the cornerstone of any business, no matter how creative it might be. If your numbers don’t add up, or if you haven’t a clue who your competitors are, that’s a sign you aren’t ready to make the switch. Go back to the drawing board and don’t come back until you can recite your business plan.
Build a buffer
If you’re really committed to building a freelance business, you will need to start planning months in advance by starting a savings account. Advice varies, but most people recommend having enough money to live for three months without making a single penny. If you already have work and clients lined up, you can probably reduce this to one or two months, but the point is to give yourself some breathing room. Without this, you’ll find yourself making terrible business decisions that will cost you in the long-run.
Consider plan B and C
Contingency planning is essential to making the switch from employee to freelancer. What if I don’t make money for a whole month? What happens if a Google update tanks my blog traffic? Plan for the worst and hope for the best is the most positive mindset you can head into your new venture with. Contingency planning also means you can’t burn any bridges along the way. Don’t leave your old day job in a flurry of expletives and hurled papers as you might rely on their referral one day.
Rescue lost time
Making a business plan and researching your competitors takes time, and you have a choice as to where this time comes from. You can either lose sleep, lose time with your friends and family, or you can reclaim wasted time. If your commute takes you upwards of 30 minutes each way, then working from home a few days per week could save you at least two hours per week. Flexible working varies around the world, so check your local employment law before making your request official. If you’re hoping to take a fledgling blog full-time, this can be the perfect way to reclaim those precious few hours that will make all the difference.
Thanks so much to Rebecca Harper for sharing her insights! If you have any tips on how to make the transition to freelancing, leave them in the comments below!