From Full-Time to Freelance: How To Make The Career Switch

You’ve finally made the decision to hand in your 2-weeks notice and to begin your freelance career.

Now comes the hard part: actually planning the transition. You’ve gotten used to your 9-5 routine, and to bosses handing you tasks and assignments to work on.

As a freelancer, you’re going to have to prepare to handle that yourself.

First, ask yourself ‘why?’

Before you take the plunge into the world of freelancing, start by asking yourself why you want to become a freelancer. According to a 2016 study by Field Nation, 86% of people intentionally choose to become freelancers.

Here are a few reasons why:

  • A sense of autonomy, or working for yourself
  • Creative control over which clients you work with
  • More flexibility in weekly schedule to spend time with friends and family
  • The ability to work from home
  • The potential to make it a high-income way of life
Did you know? 86% of people become freelancers by choice. #freelancefacts Click To Tweet

Regardless of your reason or reasons, make sure you have one. Too many people think freelancing is a quick buck or an easy way to do nothing at home. The reality involves a lot more work than people realize.

If you want to know why I chose to freelance, take a look at my other post I wrote called “Why I Chose Freelancing Over the 9-5 Life”.

Data: Payoneer

Prepare yourself before resigning

Does it feel like there’s a lot to do but you’re not sure where to start? Don’t worry, that’s normal. Start with a simple list to get your priorities straight. Some things to include:

  • Choose a type of freelance work. Do you want to write? Code? Design? Find your specialty and niche. If you’re on this page, chances are you already know what you want to do.
  • Create your own work environment and routine. No one will be around to tell you what to do. You’ll have to instill a sense of discipline yourself. Set up space where you can focus on getting work done. Set hours for concentrated work as well as breaks.
  • Find small-time gigs and projects. Before you make the transition, it’s important to get some professional experience under your belt. For one, these relationships could really help later on. Second, no one will want to hire you with an empty portfolio.
  • Determine your rates. Start figuring out how much work you can do in an hour, and how much you want to make for your work. Most importantly, you’ll want to find a rate that can cover your basic living expenses. Check out my other post on setting your rates as a freelancer.
  • Save for a rainy day. Don’t expect to get paid on time- or at all. Clients may decide to cut you loose out of the blue, and your expenses will add up. While you’re working full-time, save as much as you can and resist spending- just in case you have a slow month.
  • Set up a long-term plan. Not all freelance ventures end on a positive note. Some may find it’s not for them, others may struggle to find work. Develop a plan for goals you want to reach by a certain date, such as a specific dollar amount within a few months. This is especially important if you pay your own bills.
Before you start freelancing, figure out how much work you can do in an hour, and how much you want to make. #freelancetips Click To Tweet

Network and search for your gigs

Develop tactics to find opportunities. Generally, you’ll want a mix of networking and searching online.

Freelance websites

Places like Upwork, Fiverr, Freelancer, and PeoplePerHour will provide plenty of jobs at the start, but be warned not all pay well. Some may expect you to write well below a living wage, as you’ll be competing with others from around the world. Use this as a starting point as you develop experience and build your portfolio.

Networking

You may not realize it, but you already know people who may be in need of your services. College classmates, old friends, even family members may have a connection looking for some help on a website, an ebook, or some other project. Reach out into your network through email or social media. You’ll be surprised with what you find.

Agencies and firms

There are plenty of marketing firms, staffing agencies, and other businesses within your area looking for a contractor. That’s because they just want the help, but don’t necessarily want the trouble of hiring someone full time. Check your local job listings for any freelance positions. Agencies are a great way to find other opportunities later on.

Source: Payoneer
46% of all freelancers use online marketplaces to find work. #freelancefacts Click To Tweet

Set up your own benefits package

From healthcare to retirement, your employer may offer a compelling benefits package that makes it difficult to leave.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t look after yourself. You just need to factor in the cost of healthcare and retirement savings into your rate.

If you live in Canada, you’re entitled to basic coverage, but not dental, vision, or prescription drugs. Check out RateLab’s list of best healthcare programs to review your options. If you live in the U.S., you might be eligible for basic coverage through Healthcare.gov. You can also check out Healthcare.com’s useful list of the best health insurance companies in 2018.

Canadian freelancers should look into an individual/personal pension plan. These plans are tax-deductible but remain relatively unknown to the general public. Click here to learn more about individual pension plans. For American freelancers making less than $5,500 annually, a Roth or Traditional IRA is the best option. Traditional contributions are tax deductible, while for Roth IRA, withdrawals are tax -free.

Don’t forget your taxes

Number one thing people neglect to think about until it’s too late? Taxes. Freelancers are no exception.

As a freelancer, you’ll be responsible for paying your own taxes. You’ll even have to pay taxes on your own self-employment. Luckily there are a few ways you can count supplies and other items under expenses, such as your home office.

I highly recommend visiting TurboTax’s guide on taxes for freelancers to learn more if you live in the U.S. They also have a guide for Canadian freelancers too.

Build your relationships, your portfolio, and your online presence

In the freelance world, who you know is more important than what you know. Do your best to treat your clients with respect and priority, and in return, you’ll be rewarded with long-term work experience.

As you complete various projects, check with your clients to add them to your portfolio. A portfolio is the most effective means of showcasing your talents to future clients. Be sure to read my post on how to create a portfolio website.

You’ll also want to develop an online presence to attract more clients in your niche. Use social media and your website to expand your local awareness, and your business will grow over time.

Hone your craft

Always be curious. No matter how many years you put into your work, there’s always more to learn. Even after all these years, I’m surprised by how much I learn each day.

Read as much as you can. Check out the top books about your industry on Amazon. Read relevant guides and articles on your subject matter, and even ask your client for occasional feedback. A great freelancer is always looking to improve, to best his competition through sheer skill and expertise.

Jerome Okutho
Jerome Okutho
Jerome helps freelancers succeed online. He has a passion for everything technology, marketing, and blogging. He currently resides in Ottawa, Canada.
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