Okay, so you’ve made your decision and you’re ready to quit your day job to freelance full-time. Whether it’s design, writing, or any other creative skill, preparing to quit your job can be a scary thing. Especially when you’re an adult and paying adult bills. My simple advice to you all is do not do it on a whim! I get it. You’re fired up about future goals, you’ve made your decision, and you’re ready! But, are you really? Here are the 5 steps I took (and you should too) before quitting my job and beginning to freelance for a living.
HOW TO PREPARE TO QUIT YOUR JOB TO FREELANCE FULL-TIME
I worked full-time as a visual designer in a creative start-up space. It was an amazing job with amazing people, but I knew I wanted to be my own boss and make my own hours. As I secretly plotted on my exit, I chose to go a responsible route.
With rent for a Brooklyn apartment and various bills, I couldn’t afford to just quit on a whim without any backup. My advice, although it was tough and took longer than I wanted, is to save up enough money to cover at least 3 months worth of rent or bills. Experts recommend 6, but I’m not that patient, nor did I have anything close to that already in my account — thanks online shopping addiction. In my head, I figured that gave me two months to work daily at fulfilling my dreams as a freelance designer, and one month to find a new job if those two months weren’t working for me! Doing freelance work, nothing is guaranteed. There are slow months and there are busy months, so saving and being responsible are skills that you will need to survive in this world!
If you’re not good at budgeting or saving, I’d suggest signing up for a free account on LearnVest or Mint. They both have websites as well as phone apps. These tools allow you to note your income, budget and spending habits as well as savings goals. They can be connected to your credit/debit cards and bank accounts for super accurate tracking! Aside from personal finance tracking, you can also use one (or both) of these sites for tracking your freelance business income and spending!
prepare a schedule
As a new freelancer, a lot of time is going to have to go into not only what you’re creating, but marketing yourself and administrative tasks too. If this is going to be a full-time job for you, then it’s a great transitional step to take. Otherwise, you’ll end up watching Netflix in your pajamas at 3am, because you’re living way too freely. When you’re first starting out, you’ll probably work more hours in a week than you did at your 9-5. You have to work hard to get to the work-life balance point.
I started with a plan of a healthy 8am-5pm schedule, leaving a block for a 1 hour lunch and a few 15 minute breaks, just as I had at my corporate job. Now that I have a steady stream of clients and more processes in place, I can better manage my time, and have created a schedule that fits with my lifestyle. We all know that you’ll end up working on a project deadline at 2am, but it’s nice to at least PLAN a healthy work schedule and then eventually work towards it.
build your brand + portfolio
Before you quit your job to freelance, it’s important to create your personal or business brand and website if you haven’t already (view my design services if you need some help). Ideally, you’ll also have a bit of a clientele base built up, to help with your portfolio. This will usually lead to some continuous referrals that will come along just when you need them. While you have alternate steady income, now is the time to do those pro-bono or concept projects to attract the type of clients you’d like, and build up your freelance portfolio.
Also, having the experience of managing clients (after work at your current job and on the weekends) can give you a taste of the work load before you do it full time. If you have a problem getting clients, then you definitely have some work to do before you tell your boss goodbye. (I’ll work on some tips for doing so for an upcoming Working Girls post)
Whether Pinterest, Behance, family, or friends, inspiration is very important for creatives. Sitting at a desk all day is not very inspiring and although sometimes new work is inspiring, sometimes. . .it’s not. Add a little time in your daily schedule to find a little inspiration!
Just as your freelance career was side-revenue to your day job, it’s always nice to have a backup for your freelancing. Perhaps you can knit or make jewelry and would like to open an Etsy store. Perhaps you’re an expert on certain topics and can create a niche blog that brings in ad revenue. Focus on some of your other passions and figure out how they can help support your freelance dreams!
I’ll be elaborating on some of these points in upcoming posts, but if you have any questions, please let me know!
What did you do to prep for becoming you quit your job to freelance?