We’re not taught how freelancing works in school. It isn’t something your guidance counsellor would have mentioned, or something you’ll find a college course on. If you want to start freelancing, you have to figure out a lot of things for yourself. That can be terrifying! You don’t have to do it all on your own, though- I’ve been working as a freelance writer for a while now, and I’ve figured out some of the best ways you can prepare before taking the plunge and starting your freelance career. Here are four things you should do before you become a freelancer.
1. Build up some savings
Freelancing can be very financially unstable, especially at the beginning. It’ll take some time to build up a client base and get regular work, so don’t jump into freelancing without a safety net. How much you want to save is up to you, but many financial experts recommend enough money to keep you going for three to six months. That means rent, bills, food, and spending money. Very few people find freelancing easy at the beginning, and the last thing you’ll want is the added stress of not being able to pay your bills.
2. Do your research
Do you know what kind of freelancer you want to be? Are you a writer, a programmer, a designer, or maybe something else? Research your marketplace to learn which skills are in demand and what kind of work clients will be asking of you. While the idea of freelancing might sound like a dream, make sure you learn what the realities of day-to-day life will be. Learn where you can apply for jobs, what you need to do to be tax-compliant, and how to calculate your rates. More research now means fewer unpleasant surprises later.
3. Try it out
The best way to learn about freelancing is to do it. Start out small by doing some projects in the evenings and on weekends. You might work on a few projects and realise this isn’t how you thought it would be. On the other hand, you might fall in love with freelancing and be inspired to reach your full-time freelancing goal even sooner. There’s only one way to find out! These early projects will be a good way for you to test out what you’ve learned in your research. It also means that if/when you do go full-time, you’ll already have some clients. Find what works for you, and build a business around it.
4. Get organised
An unorganised freelancer is a stressed freelancer. When it comes to getting organised, here are a few things you’ll want to consider:
- Workspace. Where will you work? Most people choose between working from home, a coffee shop, or a co-working space. There are pros and cons to each of these; a good way to know what suits you is to try each of them out. And you can always switch it up any time you want! Give Casual Friday an upgrade and work in your pyjamas!
- Financial issues. Make sure to find out how self-employment works where you live, and what you need to do when it comes to tax. All this stuff can be scary, but it’s best to sort it out early. That way, you won’t get an unexpected bill later.
- Daily schedule. When you don’t have the structure of an office or a boss, it can be easy to let your schedule slide. You sleep in, you take a long lunch, you work from the couch late at night… After a while, these habits are going to affect your lifestyle and mental health. Find a work schedule that works for you and stick to it. You’re your own boss when you’re a freelancer, so you might have to be strict with yourself sometimes.
- Project management. A big problem many freelancers face is a vicious cycle of too much work, followed by nothing at all. Danielle Thompson of the Freelance Travel Network calls this the “feast and famine mindset”. I’ve found that the best way to manage this is through organisation. I map out all my work, how long it’s going to take me, and what gaps I need to fill. Seeing everything together can really help you to know how your business is doing.
It took me a while to learn all of this, and I’m still improving the way I run my freelance business. Freelancing is incredibly exciting, and it’s understandable that you want to start straight away. You might not be able to quit your day job and move to Bali right now, but you can follow these steps. Start your freelancing career today, and make sure to let me know how it’s going as you become a freelancer!
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