I’ve been a freelance copywriter (and occasional translator) for 18 months now. And while I am happy with my decision, there are some things I really wish I knew before I quit my job.
Since going freelance, there have been times when I had no work.
There were times when I seriously doubted my decision.
Was I stressed? Of course.
I quit a good job with a good salary and good prospects.
I didn’t have a salary coming in at the end of each month like clockwork anymore – something I was used to for over ten years.
I didn’t know where the next wage was going to come from.
I didn’t know if I was going to get clients.
My savings were exhausted.
I had people depending on me and I knew I was going to have serious surgery in a few months that would stop me from working.
Those were my first six months as a freelancer. It was tough.
But I powered through. I dug in, pulled out some grit and got to work.
Sure, there were and are challenges. Just like with any job. But they’re challenges I know how to deal with.
If you do it right, freelancing can be an incredible way to work.
But, with any new experience there are always going to be growing pains, right? There’s a learning curve.
Why should you become a freelancer?
Money – depending on your sector, “good” freelancers typically earn more than their employee counterparts. What is a good freelancer? By good I mean a freelancer who is committed to working and to marketing themselves.
Yes, you have to pay for your computer, your internet connection, office equipment, training, software and so forth (and taxes!), but you have the opportunity to significantly increase your earning power.
Listen, this is one of the main reasons why I quit my job. I knew that the market value for a freelance equivalent of my position was a lot higher than what I was being paid. And if this applies to you too, well, what are you waiting for?
Time – if you’re productive, you can work four or five hours a day, every day. You can work when you want. You can change your schedule.
Satisfaction – No boss. You’re autonomous. You choose what you work on. You usually work on different projects for a number of clients. Work is varied, keeping it interesting.
Freedom – Work at home, go and work in a coffee shop, go to another country. Bunk off for the day if you want to, wahey!
In freelancing, you get out what you put in, and you get paid accordingly. It’s that simple.
I can work from wherever I want. From here in Barcelona. From my family home in Ireland. Or I can book a two-month trip to another continent and take my computer with me. I’ve done exactly that. And you can too.
Now let’s take a look at those five things I wish I’d known before I went freelance…
5 things to know before quitting your job to become a freelancer
1. It’s all on you. Yes you
You can’t just roll into the office on autopilot, get given your task list by your manager and go. It’s all on you. You have no team sitting beside you.
You’re your own boss.
Hold up, what? Isn’t being your own boss a great thing?
Of course it is, it’s fantastic. But, let me tell you this. Until you have no team to work with or superior to report to, only then can you fully understand their role in making you productive.
So, you have to work hard. You have to push yourself on those days when you feel lethargic, or bored. Because as a freelancer, with no one to answer to, it’s so easy to coast. But coasting won’t pay the bills.
2. Diversify your client list
Just like an investor diversifies their stock portfolio so as not to rely on any one stock or sector, wise freelancers do the same with their clients. I recommend that no more than 25% of your income comes from the same client.
This way, if you have 4 clients providing 25% each, and you lose a client, you’re not screwed.
Which brings us to the next point.
3. Perpetual marketing
As a freelancer, you absolutely have to market yourself continually. At least 10% of your time should go into marketing. How, you ask?
Write blog posts (like I’m doing right now!) to demonstrate your knowhow and skills.
Network (online and in-person). OK, I know that you might quiver at the thought of those uncomfortable business-networking events. This is what most of us think about when we hear the word “networking.” But that’s only one kind of networking opportunity.
I’ve worked in marketing for years now. I’ve looked at ways to market and sell things and tried out every type of marketing you can think of. The single best way to market yourself is through networking, hands down, no contest. There is nothing better than a personal touch.
Connect with people on LinkedIn, Twitter and so forth. Make YouTube videos. Whether you know it or not, you’ve got something to say. If you’ve worked in an industry for a while, you have insights, know-how, knowledge, skills! Invest time in learning how to best use these networks.
Join associations or groups in your sector. And yes, get involved in live events, in person.
Then there is online advertising. A friend of mine is a freelance photographer. He spends around €300 per month on Google adverts. Most of his client base and livelihood come from these ads. That might seem like a sizable chunk, but it’s what brings in the majority of his income. You can use Google, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn to reach your potential clients with paid advertising.
The most successful (and most profitable) freelancers are consistent marketers. If you think you’re rubbish with people, you can work on that. And you’re probably better than you think.
4. You need a routine
I once worked in a translation agency and a freelance translator said to me, “You need to have a routine. You can’t just get up and roll over to your desk, or from your bed, in your boxers. You need to have a shower first thing, get dressed, maybe have some coffee.”
I didn’t fully appreciate this advice at the time. I thought working from bed sounded like a great idea! But you know, he was completely right.
Personally, I need to get out of the house first thing, so I go down to the coffee shop by my place before I get some exercise done. You’ll figure out your eventual routine yourself, but in the beginning, I really advise you to at least have your shower first thing and get dressed. Oh and try to stick to the same wake up time.
5. Accounting and taxes
Do you really have to do this stuff?! Yep.
Depending on where you’re from, you have to register as a freelancer. In the UK or Ireland this is pretty quick and easy. In Spain, it isn’t. But you need to get it done.
I was a bit of a headless chicken with this in the beginning. I just had a rough idea of the taxes involved and I made a bunch of mistakes on the first few invoices. My advice? Get informed, make sure you get your taxes done in a timely manner and don’t be afraid to spend a little money to get a good accountant. They usually help you to save both time and money in the long run, not to mention headaches.
The final word
If you’re thinking of becoming a freelancer, but you haven’t yet, what’s stopping you?
If you’re not sure that you will get work, focus on getting your name out there. Start marketing yourself. Get in touch with people in your industry or the industry you want to break into.
Before I quit my job, I did some freelancing on the side. This really helped with the transition as I already had a client base, albeit a small one. The headstart I gave myself with networking and having this small client base proved invaluable.
Just please please please, don’t let fear keep you from taking that leap.
This article was originally published on Misdyrected.com