Leaving your day job and transitioning to full-time freelance work is an exciting time, but it can also be nerve-wracking and stress-filled. Building a list of clients, getting accustomed to invoicing, finding a comfortable schedule, and developing a consistent routine are just a few of the tasks that you will face in your first few months of independent work. One of the best ways to get accustomed and comfortable during the switch from full-time employee to freelancer or self-employed is to speak with others who have done the same, and we hope these five tips will help ease your transition.
1. Build out your online presence
Even before you leave your day job, make sure you develop a strong web presence both in the form of a personal portfolio website and on platforms like Upwork or Fiverr if they align with the work you will be performing. When you dive into freelancing, things like updating your portfolio and résumé can get put on the back-burner behind completing paying work, so make sure all of your online platforms are set up and running while your schedule has a bit more stability so you do not need to worry about these things in your first few months of freelancing. This goes for social media as well. Having a public presence on sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and similar, will help elevate your visibility when potential clients are searching to hire people like you.
2. Set up budgeting and invoicing plans
A common mistake that people make when transitioning to freelancing is cutting corners to save costs, like foregoing budgeting or invoicing software from the get-go. Whether you choose to use And Co., Quickbooks, Bonsai or a different service, you’ll quickly realize that your software pays for itself in the time and hassle saved. While you probably can get by for a few months relying on Excel or Google Sheets to log your hours, expenses and invoices, establishing your business with a steady system will put you at ease from the very beginning. It will also provide your clients with a more professional experience.
3. Join a coworking space
One of the most important parts of your first few months of freelancing is networking and finding potential clients, and joining a coworking space is a great way to do that. You will also find that working from a coworking space (even just a few days a month) makes the change from office to freelance less abrupt and will lead to more productivity and focus as you make the transition. Coworking does not have to be a big expense, and options like KettleSpace’s Lite Plan start at just $25 per month. Having access to a network like KettleSpace will also give you a great place to meet with new clients or partners as you grow your business.
4. Don’t burn your bridges
Just because you are going to be self-employed does not mean that you will be working all by yourself. Contacts from full-time work can often lead to great opportunities, whether it be a client’s need for a consultant or freelancer later on, or invitations to events or conferences that will provide for great networking.
5. Plan for both active and passive income
Expect your first few months or even first few years of freelance work to be slower than anticipated and use the downtime to set up passive income that can pay off later. For example, write blog posts or tutorials that can bring traffic to your website but also potentially lead to passive ad revenue. Consider making designs like templates that can serve as great examples of your work even if they are not for a current client; you can then sell these templates online through Themeforest or Creative Market to bring in a bit of extra income.
These tips are just a few of the things to remember as you make the exciting leap from full-time employee to freelancer. For a few recommendations of our favorite specific tools for freelancers, read our article on freelance resources.