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How to Switch from Full-time Employee to Freelancer

Becoming a Full-time Freelancer Without the Risks.

Has the thought of transitioning from full-time to freelance contractor crossed your mind? You have probably been dreaming of quitting that 9-to-5 job and not being considered “an employee” anymore. You know your skills are being wasted working for the big man, spending hours in a small office and not dedicating enough quality time to the things that really matter.

Perhaps you have finally decided to put your foot down and are transitioning from full-time to freelance work. Before happily walking out the door, ensure you have your ducks in a row by implementing all of the following.

Study the Market

Let’s say you wish to become a full-tiime freelance writer, for example. You see many opportunities available and feel confident in your abilities, making you jump to the conclusion that you are ready to take on the job.

Hold on just one second, though…

A quick visit to the Craigslist “Writing Gigs” section or Upwork may not mean anything if you don’t have a plan of attack. Also, not every venue is representative of the overall market as far as earning potential goes. So, before shooting up your confidence levels, analyze some of the following:

Are you exploring the best sources for jobs?
What’s up with those low going rates? How can you negotiate?
What are other freelancers doing poorly and successfully?
How can you break into the market with few samples available? What have successful freelancers done?
What would you do if/when dealing with client conflict?

Transitioning from full-time to freelance work means asking questions and then tackling those answers you may not necessarily like. The above are merely some questions to help you get started, thus allowing for better critical thinking before you quit your job.

Assess Your Needs

You may have a pretty good idea about your monthly bills and general expenses, but it’s crucial to actually write everything down and analyze like a mathematician.

More specifically, plan for the occasional rainy day where an unexpected expense may pop up, which usually comes down to an emergency situation. All in all, don’t just make money to survive, but rather to live comfortably and safely under any circumstances.

Reduce Expenses

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As a full-time employee, it’s easy to overlook the amount of money spent on a monthly basis. You carelessly visit expensive restaurants and buy that cute pair of jeans based on impulse. After all, it’s 15% off, so why not?

Remember, though, that you are currently transitioning from full-time to freelance work, which often means cutting back on non-essentials for a while. If you typically spend $500 per month with friends, consider cutting back by at least 50%.

Tip: If necessary, don’t be ashamed of living conservatively during this transition. Cut back on conventional cable in favor of Netflix, and get a bit more creative on the kitchen.
Suddenly your living requirements will seem a lot more manageable. Speaking of expenses…

Start Saving

Simply because you have a few thousand dollars in your savings account does not necessarily mean you’re safe.

Now that you know about your monthly expenses, aim for three to six months worth of savings. The path to freelancing can be downright scary as several clients may replace you without advance notice. In such cases, it’s imperative you have a reliable financial plan while building your portfolio.

Work to Live, Not Merely to Exist

As a new freelancer, you may be tempted to take on cheap clients simply because they seem easier than dealing with lucrative ones. You may also feel overwhelmed about your current skills and the notion that “You’re new, so no big-name client will hire you.”

You need to ditch that mentality; otherwise you will likely remain stuck performing mediocre jobs and working overtime just to cover basic expenses.

You already planned your necessities, which means accepting satisfactory work and nothing less. Gina Horkey, for example, became a full-time freelancer by adapting a no-nonsense mentality and always avoiding the low-hanging fruit. Dismiss the “Start low” myth immediately.

Other Quick Tips:

Land various clients before quitting (hence the reason to study the market beforehand, as previously mentioned).

Treat your new freelance business like your typical office job – at least to some degree. Don’t go to bed too late, then wake up later than necessary and stay in your pajamas all day.

Adapt a work mentality; shower in the morning, stretch, wear casual but presentable clothes, and eliminate distractions – especially those from family.

Stay organized. Don’t just take notes on a piece of paper or rely on memory. Even a simple to-do list or Excel spreadsheet can go a long way depending on your needs. For ongoing financial needs, consider a reliable invoicing service such as Hiveage.

Final Thoughts

Are you transitioning from full-time to freelance work any time soon? Were you one of the many who have already transitioned? How did this affect your life and where do you stand today?

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