If you have spent some time in the corporate world and cringe at the thought of spending the rest of your days rotting away in a field of cubicles, chances are that you have given some thought to branching out on your own and finding a way to work for yourself.
There are certain jobs that lend themselves well to freelance work. Jobs such as writing, editing, design, programming, IT support all seem like very popular fields that allow people to envision a life of working in their pyjamas. There are many fields in which you can develop a freelance business in the form of consulting. Whatever your field, it is a big step to venture out of your own. Here are some tips to help ease the transition.
Before You Leave Your Day Job
There are few things that should you attend to before you give up your steady paycheque. The first thing you should do is check your skills. If you feel you need more training before you feel comfortable going out on your own, see if you can’t get that training on the job. It makes way more sense to try and get that subsidized by your company if you can, rather than invest time and money into it when you will be needing to make money.
Speaking of money, make sure that you have a nest egg set aside for when you are getting started, and for the inevitable lag periods between some projects. Invest in good equipment so that you have everything you need once your business gets going, including a fax machine so that you can fax out quotes and invoices.
You can also make a marketing plan and put some things into effect before you leave your job. You will need a website, some business cards and letterhead. If you can afford to have someone design a logo and the website for you, get them started so that the website is up and running when you are ready to quit your steady job. Make sure that you and your designer come up with an appealing logo that you can use on all communication and marketing. You want to create a brand for yourself and then sell that brand.
If you cannot afford to hire someone to set up a website, then it is time to get industrious, sit down and figure it out yourself. There is a lot of do-it-yourself software out there and free domains to post the website.
Finally, it is never too early to start networking. There is probably a professional association that is linked to your profession, which is a very good place to start. Each profession has its own unique challenges, and it is always good to hear about, and learn from, other people’s experiences and missteps. If you work in a diverse field, like in writing, networking with other freelancers is good in that they can sometimes shoot you some work if they know your areas of interest.
As a general rule, you can’t tell too many people about your freelance intensions. You will be pleasantly surprised the channels through which you will receive work. Tell your hairdresser, your family’s friends, your friends’ friends, tell your mailcarrier. Always carry business cards on you.
You will have to overlap freelance and your steady job for a bit, until you establish a bit of a reputation and a foundation of customers. Once you have the equipment, skills, and marketing tools in place, and you make that move out on your own, there are still issues that you will have to keep your eye on in order to succeed.
Once You’re In It
Once you have made the leap to freelance, your reputation is what is going to build your business. Therefore, building a good reputation is a very important part of the job. This means that with every client, you need to be dependable, meet deadlines, and be professional. You will find that, as a freelancer, more than a few of your jobs will have a time-crunch factor. Often, work comes to the freelancer at the eleventh hour, when a company manager realizes that his or her employees don’t have the skills—or maybe the time—to finish a project. Unlike employees, however, freelancers don’t often get a second chance when their work proves to be sub-par or unprofessional.
When you are working for yourself, you want to be constantly updating your skills and keeping abreast of new innovations in your field. Keep on top of new technology and new ways to market your skills. Also, consider expanding your skill set to include some that are related to your field. For example, if you are a designer, learn web design, and develop your skills as a writer so you can be paid to write the content of the sites you design as well. At the very least, have a list of contacts in related fields whose reputation you trust to recommend to clients. You can only hope they will return the favour.
Last, and perhaps most importantly, be very vigilant with your bookkeeping. One of the most complex parts of freelancing is figuring out your taxes, and being able to reconstruct every penny brought in and every tax deductible penny going out. Research tax law in your area as it pertains to freelancers even before you make the leap. The best bet is to have an accountant and bookkeeper to be able to keep this all straight. Also, don’t throw anything out. You will be surprised at what you can claim as a business-related expense.
Aside from taxes, you will need to set aside money for those things our wage slave benefits packages take care of for us: dental care, medical care, pension, as well as paid sick time and holidays.
There will be times when you question why you ever thought working for yourself would be easier, and there will be times when you wish you could forget about being meticulous with money every moment. There will also be times, when you shuffle to your desk at 8:00am, coffee in hand, comfy pants on, when you will just know that you made the right decision.
This blog post is supported by our sponsor over at Flood Emergency Services. Check out their services here: http://www.floodemergencyservices.com.au/flood-restoration-brisbane/