Freelancing on the side is a great way to make a little extra cash or pursue a hobby. But for some passionate creatives and entrepreneurial types there comes a time when they wonder if they should make the move to full-time freelancing.
Deciding to quit your day job and freelance full-time is scary. I should know. I just quit a great full-time job to freelance. But I decided that the benefit of being able to work for myself on projects that I love would be worth the risk.
You can do it, too. With the right amount of preparation, information and courage, you will be ready to quit your day job and commit to a full-time freelancing career. Here are the steps to take to get started.
1. Have a vision
The first obstacle on the road to starting a freelance business is the largest: overcoming the mental hurdle that's telling you, “You can’t and you won’t do it.”
To overcome that imposter syndrome (the idea that you're masquerading as someone you're not and aren't worthy), show yourself that freelancing can be the reality. Your idea isn’t a whim; it is a business plan. Start the process by establishing a business name and creating a vision for your company brand.
In The Art of the Start, Guy Kawasaki suggests asking, “Why am I starting this organization? Why should customers patronize it?”
This will help you create a mental picture of your business and give yourself a clear, real path to follow.
2. Decide on a form of business
You can operate your freelance business as a sole proprietorship as an unincorporated business run entirely by one individual. Or you can set up a legal entity for your business, such as a limited liability company or corporation.
Many freelancers choose to set up an limited liability company as it bestows the benefits of a legal entity without the complexities of a corporation. Consider your business goals and educate yourself on the types of benefits that come with each business type. Then set the wheels in motion and set up your business.
You can decide to change the form of business later, but it’s good to have a plan from the start so you can properly arrange the accounting and tax plan.
3. Create marketing materials
Lay the groundwork by developing marketing materials. This way you can start to establish buzz before officially launching the firm. At a minimum, set up a website, create Twitter and Facebook accounts and order business cards.
As you begin to tell family, friends and contacts about your new venture in the weeks or months before the launch, you will want to have materials that inform them about it.
Start networking and building interest right away. You may be surprised by the referrals that family and friends can generate when they fully understand your business and know where to send potential clients.
4. Prepare a portfolio
Never launch a freelancing career before you have experience creating the products or providing the services you plan to sell. Wait to launch until you have multiple quality samples of the work you will sell.
If you can’t compile a portfolio of samples that accurately represent your work, then push the brakes. A portfolio will be instrumental in marketing your products and services, so be sure you have quality work to show off beforehand.
Generating samples for your portfolio isn’t hard, but it might take time and resources. If you have no paid assignments or previous work to put in a portfolio, create some. Offer your services for free or just manufacture some generic samples in your free time.
5. Set up financial processes
Before the work starts rolling in, be sure you're prepared for it. Set prices, create invoice templates, establish an accounting plan and consider how much to set aside for taxes.
It’s easier to keep up with your accounting along the way than to deal with it all later. So create processes so you can start off by keeping organized financial records.
6. Secure a few clients
While working at other jobs, set aside time after work and on weekends to build up a clientele for the future. Building an an initial client base and starting to put some cash in the bank is a must for beginning freelancers.
You don’t have to fully launch your business to find clients. Tap into your network and ask friends, family and colleagues for referrals. That will help you bring in some initial work to get started.
7. Believe in yourself
The whole venture starts with believing in yourself and that's the ultimate consideration through the whole of it. If you doubt your ability to find success, you won’t find it.
The weeks leading up to my final decision to quit my job, I had many moments of panic. I would find myself questioning my abilities and doubting whether I had what it takes to really work for myself. But instead of letting those thoughts get the best of me, I would shift my attitude.
I would think about other successful freelancers, business owners and entrepreneurs I knew. I wouldn't indulge in my old way of thinking and say, "I can't do what they do." Instead, I would say, "If they can do it, why can't I?"
Everyone has to start somewhere, so acknowledge your doubts, then overcome them. It takes practice, but it's an important practice. There's no way you can sell something to clients that you haven't first sold to yourself.
So be sure that you're completely mentally invested in your full-time freelancing business before quitting your day job.
These steps can be completed while you continue to work at your a day job. Focus on accomplishing each of these hurdles and then you'll be ready to launch your full-time freelancing career with the necessary resources, confidence, and courage.
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