I have been freelancing full-time for over 2 and 1/2 years. It’s honestly been like a dream come true. I’m so blessed to be able to do what I do. It hasn’t been easy by any means, but it’s given me the freedom in my life that some people only dream of.
When I took the step to become a full-time freelancer, I made a risky move. At the time, I had been an assistant manager of a retail store and took on freelance gigs on the side. After trying to find a new job for over 6 months and continuing to work in a toxic work environment, I had finally decided I was fed up.
I quit my job with no prospects. I had a pretty consistent gig but it wasn’t enough to replace my current income. But, I felt I had to do something. So, I decided to become a full-time freelancer and was lucky enough to find the perfect gig right off the bat.
When I tell you that this is not the norm, I mean it. I got very lucky. Not all freelancers are so lucky. I made a risky move and while I don’t regret it, I know it’s not the norm. If you’re thinking about becoming a freelancer full-time, I have some need-to-know tips for you to start successfully.
1. Save A Nest Egg
Freelancing is a very fickle business. It takes lots of budgeting skills. You don’t always earn a consistent income. You have to get good at properly saving your money.
When you first start especially, you need to be sure you have a nice nest egg saved up so you can cover your expenses. A good rule of thumb is to have enough money saved to cover your bills for 1-2 months.
By having some money aside, you avoid feeling the need to take any job that comes your way. You will often find as a freelancer that not every client will pay you adequately. You want to get compensated appropriately for your work. When you have something to fall back on, you’ll be able to be more choosy about which jobs you take on.
Believe me, there’s nothing more stressful than desperately needing a gig to pay your bills and having nothing. You don’t want to put yourself in that position, so always keep a good amount of money aside for slow periods, should they come your way.
2. Get Some Experience
As a freelancer, it’s important to have a portfolio. You want to be able to show potential clients what your work looks like. If you can, find a paid or unpaid internship style job. But, you don’t need to have a job to do this. There are lots of other ways you can gain and show experience.
If you’re a writer, consider starting a blog. You don’t have to get too in-depth with a website. A free blog site like WordPress or other similar sites will work just fine. You can also write for websites like Medium. It gets your work onto a website that’s widely recognized. It gives you a great place to send potential clients or share when pitching.
If you’re a graphic designer, start an Instagram account that features some of your work. Again, it doesn’t have to be work you’ve done for clients, it can be something you create on your own.
You will want to have some kind of portfolio established before you start pitching. It is something a potential client will want to see. They don’t want to hire you blindly, it’s too risky. Show them what you’re made of!
3. Do Your Research
There are lots of websites out there where you can find paid writing gigs. Each come with their benefits, but you have to decide which one will work best for you. Or, you can choose to do cold-pitches. Figure out which format might work best for you. Maybe you’d like to start on a freelancing website and then venture off on your own.
Aside from figuring out where you’ll find gigs or how you’ll pitch, you’ll want to research freelancing in general. Find tips on the pitching process. See what tools you can use to become successful.
You don’t want to dive into freelancing without understanding the whole process at least a little. Educate yourself on freelancing so you can have all the tools you need to succeed.
4. Establish Your Niche
As a freelancer, what type of work are you looking for? While you might think it’s a good idea to go in by targeting lots of different types of jobs and industries, it will work out better if you can differentiate yourself.
If you want to become a business blogger, you need to establish your portfolio to business-style blog writing. If you want to be a ghostwriter for romance novels, write a few short stories in this style.
Defining what niche you want to stay in helps keep you on track and gain quality clients who know exactly what they want. You can be as vague (ex: blog writer) or specific (ex: food blog writer) as you want, but try to stay within one realm, at least when you’re just starting.
5. Set Up Your Freelancer Profile
This part is two-fold, depending on what direction you want to take your freelancing business. But, whether you decide to join a freelancing website or create your own website, you want time to set it up.
My best advice is to get your profile or website set up before you leave your full-time job. This allows you to solely focus on finding gigs after you’ve become full-time instead of spending your time with administrative tasks.
This also gives you a chance to familiarize yourself with how a freelancing website works. Get familiar with the pitching process, what the job board looks like, and optimize your profile.
You Got This
If you’re tired of dreaming about the freedom a freelance life brings, it’s time to take the steps to create a job that you love doing. The key is to get all of this done before you leave your full-time job. You need to give yourself a solid foundation to stand on right off the bat. This is key to being successful as a freelancer.