The Internet has transformed how we work, and people are choosing to go down the freelance route to find greener pastures. The idea of it sounds so tempting: flexible hours, independence, and the ability to name your price upfront without hesitation. It sounds like a dream setup in terms of employment, but most people don’t know that making the switch from a desk job to full freelance work requires specific skills.
Years of tenure at a full-time job don’t make one a perfect fit for freelancing. Often, jumping straight into the first offer for freelance work without considering some factors will land you in a very unsure position: you could be hoodwinked into working for a lower amount, setting schedules can be overlooked, or you could even lose sight of it as an actual job because you were used to a full-time position.
We’ve put together a list of things to help prepare you for that big switch from a desk job to self-employment.
1. Give yourself time to plan
Finding good work in freelancing is possible, but you also need to prepare for lean periods. Before you hand in your resignation letter, make sure to have at least three clients lined up already so you can get started as soon as you take your box of little office supplies home.
You’ll also need to tuck away three to six months’ worth of savings as a safety net for when clients are scarce. Sounds excessive? That is a reality you face when you shift to freelance work. There may be times when you won’t have clients for weeks.
And since you’re making the big switch, check out the market demand for the skill you’re offering. Planning to become a freelance blog writer? Check out job boards online to see how many people are offering the same thing and how much clients are willing to pay for it. That way, you gain awareness of how freelancers interact in the community and with potential employers.
Finally, you also might want to look into daycare services. Just because you’re self-employed doesn’t mean you’ll have more time for your children.
2. Start a system
In freelancing, you won’t have secretaries to track progress reports and take calls for you. You will have to handle pricing, billing, and contract writing all by yourself. Set up your system and go over it a few times to be sure you’re ready before taking on some clients. Make sure to make your schedule organized — this is to avoid confusion and disorganization.
Manage your hours and stick to them. It’s easy to overwork yourself since you’ll technically be working at home, so it pays to discipline yourself to stop working when you log off. And it’s a good habit to be mindful of progress!
Hire a lawyer to help you draft a standard contract for when you’re ready to provide services for clients. This keeps you safe from being scammed into doing free work, which is a common occurrence among newer freelancers. Make templates as well, in case you need to print copies out.
3. Set your rates
Since you’ll be entering the freelance world for the first time, it’s easy to fall into the trap of charging low at the start to attract more clients. Don’t. Know how much your skills are worth, and charge accordingly.
Lowballing yourself to secure multiple clients at once will end up hurting the market for other freelancers and lure them into thinking that they are charging “too much.” You won’t scare away clients if you charge an honest rate based on what you know you can do. Someone will always be able to afford what you’re bringing to the table. If your skills can back it up, go for it.
And since we’re on the topic, let’s talk about billing. Unlike some jobs, charging an hourly rate is not recommended. Breaking down work that you do per hour for 4-8 hours will take an unnecessary amount of work and could open a door for your client to scrutinize every hour. This could lead to lower pay than what was agreed upon, so sticking to a set rate per project is best.
Self-employment, with dedication and discipline, can be a good career shift for many people. Down the line, you will learn how to make your workflow more streamlined, and the quality of your output will improve. When you get there (and you will, with these tips in mind), you can raise your project rates. Be mindful of the clients that hire you, and always focus on making your work better than the last.