There's something to be said for being a salaried employee. Not only do you get the benefit of a steady paycheck, but there's a relative level of job security at play. Freelance workers, by contrast, don't get paid on a preset schedule. (Heck, sometimes they don't get paid at all, such as when clients flake out or try to dodge their invoices.) And forget about job security; freelancers are often the first people to go when companies need to curb their spending.
But despite the many challenges freelancers encounter regularly, it's a lifestyle many office workers would like a part of, so much so that 69% are actually considering going freelance, according to data from Porch. If you're thinking of making the leap from salaried employee to freelancer, you should know that the early stages of independent work can be challenging. Here's how to ease that transition.
1. Secure some clients ahead of time
Until you're ready to officially leave your job and go freelance, it's generally best not to discuss those plans with your colleagues or manager, since the last thing you want is to be let go before you're ready to venture out on your own. But that doesn't mean you can't get the word out elsewhere. If you have former colleagues or industry contacts who you trust not to spill the beans to your boss or peers, reach out and let them know when you'll be available for freelance projects. With any luck, some of them will line up work in advance so that once you leave your office job, you'll have an instant source of income.
2. Network aggressively
When you're first starting out as a freelancer, it's helpful to turn to the people you already know and ask for their assistance in drumming up business, whether it means working for them directly or having them refer clients to you. But don't rely on your limited contact list to build up a steady workflow. Instead, plan to do a lot of networking during the early stages of freelancing so that you meet more potential customers who need your services.
One of the easiest ways to network is to find online industry forums or groups you can connect with. This way, you can meet more people without so much as having to leave your home. That said, it's often easier to build relationships in person, so be sure to sign up for your fair share of conferences, seminars, and even local freelance meetups at the neighborhood coffee shop.
3. Have plenty of savings to fall back on
Going from a steady paycheck to a variable income can throw your finances off course. That's why it's crucial to amass some emergency savings before becoming a freelancer. This way, you'll have money to tap if you have a month or two during which no one seems to want your services or if clients take their sweet time paying you for work you've already done. Generally speaking, a solid emergency fund is one that contains anywhere from three to six months' worth of living expenses, but the more you're able to sock away in advance, the less stressed you'll be if it takes a while for your freelance venture to prosper.
Is the freelance lifestyle right for you? You won't know until you give it a shot. Follow these tips for a smooth transition, and with any luck, you'll be happy with your decision in the long run.
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