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How to make the transition from full-time to freelance

When I tell people that I work as a freelance writer, the most common question I get asked is how do I cope with an irregular income. The thing is, my income isn’t that inconsistent. Yes, I earn variable amounts each month, but in general I know what to expect and I consistently earn more than I would with a salaried job. This setup works fine for me, but it took a while to get here.

Making the leap to full-time freelancing scares everyone, no matter your experience. I had a safety net in place, but I couldn’t help but worry about how quickly those savings would dwindle. It’s very fair if you’re wondering how the hell you’re going to pay for rent, food, and transportation. Not to mention the biggest financial concern of all would-be freelancers: health insurance.

The good news is that with hard work and patience, I quickly started earning not only as much as my last full-time job, but much more. The fears I had were reasonable, but I’m happy to report that I now know that my current income cap is much higher than when I was working full time. I’m not a huge fan of goalkeeping success – so here’s how I made the transition from full-time to freelancing without breaking the bank.

I built a freelance CV

While the experience you gain from working full-time translates to good freelance work, many clients like to see that the freelancers they hire have experience working for themselves. This is understandable because clients should know that the freelancer they are working with can handle multiple clients at once, can work independently (most of the time), and can meet deadlines without having a manager check in. on them.

I regularly freelanced outside of my salaried jobs from 2015 to 2018 (the year I left my last 9-5 job). Not only have I been able to build a portfolio that helps me sell my services to clients by doing freelance work on the side, but I’ve also built my network, which has made it easier for me to find more work when I was ready to be independent full time. Starting from scratch with no pay or benefits on my end probably wouldn’t have worked out very well for me.

I’d like to thank The Everygirl for being one of my first independent clients since 2016!

I found clients before quitting

Because I had a strong network of freelancers on my side, even before I gave my two weeks notice, I made arrangements to freelance. This led to a slight overlap between having a full-time job and working for myself, but it was worth working a few late nights on freelance projects to make the transition from full-time to solopreneur smooth.

I would strongly recommend balancing a full-time role and freelancing for a few weeks before quitting your job. It takes a while to ramp up work and get projects off the ground – even after a client hires you, it can take weeks to get everything to start working together and even longer to get paid. By starting early while you still have a stable income, you can really reduce your stress levels when you start your first day as a full-time freelancer.

Source: Color Joy Stock

I took a part-time job

Freelancing, hustling, consulting, call it what you want – work is work. Before quitting my job, I organized a freelance job which was more like a part-time role as it required being available 15-20 hours per week. Today, I try to spread out my sources of income much more than that, but back then, having a well-secured job was a game-changer. I knew I could make enough money to pay my bills while I built the rest of my independent business, and I still had about twenty hours a week to do it. Taking on a part-time role may seem like the opposite of freelancing, but it can make it much easier for you to focus on strategically developing other areas of your business.

If you’re always stressed about money, you’ll end up making desperate decisions when accepting new clients and new rates. Having a steady stream of income until you get your feet on the ground can keep you from having to go back to a full-time job.

I had an emergency fund

I can’t stress this enough – save money and plan your freelance work. Like I just mentioned, being stressed out about money does your business a disservice. Having money set aside in an emergency fund to help you fill in the gaps in those first few months can save you time, which is extremely valuable as a freelancer. It takes time to start a business, especially a successful business.

An emergency fund can also be very useful when you are waiting for your first paychecks. I often don’t get paid for the work I do until 30 days or more after I submit an invoice for a project, so I already have money pending me in the bank so I don’t have worry if an invoice is a bit late.

If you’re unhappy with your job or can’t wait to start a new adventure, it’s hard to be patient. When my freelance work started to pick up steam in 2015, I knew that was what I wanted to do for a career, but I waited. It’s been a long and difficult wait, but spending a few years growing my freelance business on the side, learning on the job in my full-time jobs, and building up my savings is what allowed me to build a sustainable independent business which I take advantage of today.

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