As the American freelance economy continues to grow rapidly, more and more employees are leaving full-time jobs to pursue freelance careers. The autonomous lifestyle is alluring for its adventure and independence, but becoming a full-time freelancer is not without its challenges. How to you know when to go full-time? What should you expect when you do?
When it comes to freelancing, Moonlighting knows a thing or two. And luckily, there is an entire family of freelancers who have blazed a trail. As a mobile and web platform for the freelance economy, Moonlighting attracts all kinds of ambitious and successful freelancers, and these freelancers are eager to share their experiences and encourage those trying to pursue their own dream. Here are some informative tips for anyone trying to break away and begin a career as a freelancer.
Clients are key
Clients are the lifeblood of the business –– without clients, the dream can’t live. Before leaving a full-time business, it is important for a freelancer to preemptively begin building a client base. A steady inflow of customers will mean a constant source of income that can be used for living costs and be reinvested in the business.
Shelley Iocona was living the corporate life before she realized she wanted to go full-time with her freelance business. As the Founder and Lead Strategist at On Its Axis, a business consulting firm, Shelley secured clients before stepping away from her corporate job.
Interestingly enough, one of her first clients was her former employer. “My milestone moment occurred when my employer agreed to transition our relationship from full time to contract,” says Shelley. “I had already secured another client with whom I was working part-time, and I was working on small projects with several other clients.” Shelley says that the security of a business pipeline empowered her to work independently and provided her with some runway to learn more about business development.
“My biggest tip to aspiring entrepreneurs is to work in baby steps from full-time to freelance to business building,” says Shelley. “It takes time, effort and courage to get to the stage of running a small business, but if you make small strides in a forward motion you will eventually find success.”
Savings will save you
It is always smart to plan ahead, especially if the start to a freelance career is not immediately profitable. A wise freelancer will refrain from quitting their old job before they have acquired enough savings to sustain the transition. That way, learning to hone a skill and develop more business relationships will not be overshadowed by financial insecurity.
“I have two years worth of savings in case business is slower during some months,” says Maggie Germano, a freelance Certified Financial Education instructor and coach for women. Maggie quit her day job in January to pursue a freelance career doing one-on-one financial coaching, monthly Money Circle gatherings, blogging, and speaking engagements.
“I realized that I needed to leave my job when it became clear that I couldn’t nurture and grow my business while I was working elsewhere for 40 hours a week,” says Maggie. “I wanted to write more and take on more clients, but I needed the time and energy to be able to do that well.”
With enough savings to back her living expenses for the start of her career, and a fiancé working full-time, Maggie is able to focus on growing her business and generating a sustainable source of income. “It’s scary to go from two good salaries to one, but I know it’ll be worth it.”
These suggestions are meant to help freelancers prepare for their full-time commitment to their trade, but sometimes it just takes time. Anyone trying to create a business from scratch will encounter obstacles, letdowns, and failures. Patience and perseverance go a long way in the world of freelancing.
Rob Swystun, a freelance communications consultant, decided to go full-time with his business in 2011. “I had no client base or financial base built up,” says Rob. “With my experience, I thought I could easily slide into the role. But I was wrong.”
Over time, Rob began to network, build relationships, and create business partnerships. He realized that these relationships took time, but were beneficial in the long-run. “The product/service is the tangible, but relationships are what make you successful,” says Rob.
“Over the years, I gradually increased my fees to the point where I make a lot more than I did as a full-time journalist.”
Whether moving into a full-time freelance career today or planning to quit your job at the end of the year, preparation will provide a safety net for you and your ambitions.
This article was originally featured in the USA Today.