Awhile ago, when I was still freelancing, Jessica Moorehouse interviewed me for her podcast. One of the questions she asked me was, “what advice would you give someone who wants to become a freelancer?” Jessica is not the first person to ask me this question, and probably won’t be the last.
I realized that I had been repeating the same five pieces of advice over and over on other podcasts, mainly because I think they are essential tips for freelancing. So I’m now finally sharing them on my site!
If you are seriously thinking about becoming a freelancer, I ask that you take these tips very seriously, because if you do, you will be setting yourself up for much more success than I did when I first started. I learned these tips the hard way, mainly because I was thrown into the world of freelancing via a layoff and had to learn them on my own.
1. Build Relationships
Relationships are absolutely key not only in life, but especially with being a freelancer. Before you quit your job, start building a client list (at least a year in advance). You can do this by using a simple Excel spreadsheet, or whatever gizmo app you feel like.
Start attending networking events, meetups, browse groups in LinkedIn (see what I did there), etc., to work your relationship-building magic. There is always much less pressure to email someone post event to introduce yourself, than there is when you are desperately looking for your next client or project.
Plus, many wanna be freelancers are introverted, so this is a good chance to work on those skills. One great tip I heard in a podcast is to pretend like you’re hosting the party at networking events. It makes you more proactive in engaging people.
The bottom line is, you want to arm yourself with knowing as many people in your industry as possible, because more than anything I’ve seen in freelancing, it’s who you know, way more than what you know. I would say at least 90% of all my projects came through referrals from people I know and have worked with.
2. Practice Freelancing
I know many of you who are considering freelancing, currently either loathe the line of work you are currently in, or maybe just hate the job itself, which probably drains your energy. But, you need to muster up as much energy as possible to find time to practice freelancing while you still have a full time job!
Want to be a writer? Then seek out people looking for writers (even if it may be lower pay at first)! Start doing! This is especially important if you are going into a completely new field. Maybe you always dreamed of being a freelance writer, but when you actually start doing it, realize that kind of work wasn’t for you.
The bonus part of this step is you start to build up a portfolio, so you have a body of work to show clients.
This step also goes hand in hand with building relationships!
Resources: Freelancing For Dummies
3. Live Off Half Your Income
Want to know what your income might really be like as a freelancer? Then live off half of what you are currently making. I realize low income may not be the case for everyone working for themselves, but for many of you, freelancing could be a possible kick in the gut to your finances those first couple of years.
Clients who pay late, dry spells, and putting a bigger chunk towards taxes, are all very real scenarios with freelancing. If you realize that there is no way you could live off half your income with your current expenses, then I would consider rethinking freelancing until you can.
The upside of doing this is you can save a lot of money, because…
4. You Need a Huge Emergency Fund
Forget what Dave Ramsey told you about a baby emergency fund if you want to freelance. I seriously can’t stress this point enough: Your freelance life will be SO much more relaxed and enjoyable if you have a huge financial cushion.
What about if you have debt? This point may be controversial, but unless you know you can either make a lot more money straight out of the gate, or your debt is very manageable, then my personal opinion is you should get your debt paid off or get it to a manageable level before you become a freelancer.
You always hear stories of Hollywood actors who stepped off the bus in LA with $300 to their name. For every success story, there are a million other stories you don’t hear about people who did the same thing but went broke because they were not prepared. Please please PLEASE arm yourself with a financial cushion. A big one!
5. Get Educated About Freelancing
I already provided you with some links to some great resources, so I implore you to seek out knowledge about freelancing before you become one. Ask your freelance friends to give you advice, read books, attend seminars, read blogs, listen to podcasts, talk to an accountant about estimated taxes, find out how your health insurance will change, etc.
As a freelancer, you will wear more hats than you could ever imagine. If your computer breaks, there is no one in IT to call. Need to ship something? You have to haul your butt to a FedEx store instead of walking down to the mailroom. You are now marketing, PR, human resources, CEO, CFO, etc.!
I know this sounds scary, but here’s the thing: I want you to succeed as a freelancer!! You can do it, and I always encourage people who really want to work on their own to take the leap, but just don’t leap without a parachute and the knowledge of what to do when the chute doesn’t open. 🙂
Hope this info was helpful!
Any other essential tips I missed? Did I scare the piss out of you?