I was really pleased ( and PUMPED ) about all the discussion that happened during last week’s “Be Free, Lance” session and took notes on what you all wanted covered. In fact, today on my facebook, I will be answering quick questions related to all things freelance. These are meant to be brief and I will cover many topics in the coming weeks, but definitely check it out if you’re interested. With that said, today I’m going to talk about taking the leap from your 9-5 job to working full-time freelance. Now, it should be said that I did not have a full-time job before I started freelancing. I was lucky to have scored a contracting gig a year before graduating college, so I was able to get my name out there via my blog and expand my professional network while freelancing part-time. Although that’s the route I took, I still learned extremely important steps in becoming a full-time freelancer.

First things first, you MUST make sure that you can live comfortably ( money wise ) before you take that big step. Nobody likes talking about money and it’s often a dreaded subject, but there’s just no way around it. You need to do some math and figure out if you’ll be able to pay your bills or not. Oftentimes, it’s helpful to have a nice amount of cash saved up that will last you for a good 6-12 months. Freelancing is not a for sure thing, nor is a steady paycheck, so having a safety net will naturally feel comforting.

If you don’t think you can swing full-time freelancing right away, you can always take on projects after hours. I know a lot of designers who are doing this – and although it’s a lot of work – at least you’re getting your foot in the door. In all honesty, you will feel like you’re living a double / extremely busy life for a little bit, but you will be THAT much closer to becoming a full blown freelancer. And if that’s the ultimate goal, I promise you it’s worth it.

The most important piece of advice I can give you once you begin freelancing is that you’ll only be seen as much as you put yourself out there. Utilize social media, enter contests or publications, hand out killer marketing materials, and just be yourself. The more you use these things to your advantage, the larger your potential audience will be. Through marketing and word-of-mouth, your network will grow and become its own driving force – fueling inquiries, clients, and collaborations.

Deep down, I think that most people know when they can take the leap. There are a lot of factors that go into it, sure, but I strongly believe that you’ll know when it’s right.

  1. Great post! Real good advice.

    I freelanced on the side for about a year while I worked fulltime and it definitely helped me feel more confident before taking the leap. I knew that my goal was to eventually freelance fulltime so I saved all the money I earned freelancing on the side for when I eventually quit my job, and that money helped me live the comfortable lifestyle I was used to once I no longer had a day job and was setting myself up as a fulltime freelancer.

    You definitely know when its the right time to take the leap, it just feels right inside.

  2. Yes, all great advice! I also freelanced on the side of my full time job for several months before making the leap. When my freelance work turned into the amount of time and work of another full time job (on top of my other full time job) and I woke up every morning freaking out about everything I had to do, I knew it was time to quit my job & put that extra time into my business. To be completely honest, I did not have several months of pay saved up but I did have a couple of clients with recurring projects going on, and that lack of certainty has actually been the best motivation for me to keep pushing forward with my business.

  3. Katie says:

    I’ve been freelancing for nearly three years now, and one of the questions people ask the most is how I made the switch from working full time to freelancing. The truth is, like you, I didn’t. I was six months out of university and unemployed – so starting to work freelance wasn’t so much of a risk.

    However, it was still important to be able to make enough money to live! Your advice about putting yourself out there is spot on. In the early days, I spent a huge amount of time attending networking events. I had to get up really early and network with (great!) groups of people who were double my age – but it was completely worth it to get clients and support myself on my own terms.

    • bre says:

      Exactly! I know a few people who freelanced out of the lack of a job, too – and there’s nothing wrong with it. Agency or studio work is beneficial, I’m sure, but there’s nothing like diving in head first into a world you barely know anything about. SUCH a learning experience!!

      But yes, so much time went into networking and putting myself out there, like you. It was crucial!! xx.

  4. Thanks for tackling this Bre, I know you never made that leap but I think your point about putting yourself out there is really important. I know you’ve mentioned before to make sure to factor self-promotion and marketing into your freelance fees. Some people forget this! It’s all about being seen to get more clients. Thanks for the tips :)

  5. Sandra says:

    Such good advice!
    I know you have mentioned marketing, I was just wondering if there was anything specific you found that got people interested in contacting you regarding design?

    I know you have talked about social media – although sometimes it just feels like there are so many talented people out there so it’s hard to get your foot in one door!

    I suppose patience and to keep being active is the way to go but any other advice relating to this would be great!

    • bre says:

      Hey Sandra,
      Yes – patience and being active are two key things! I think one thing that has helped me, specifically, is just being myself. I post and write how I normally would on my blog and talk like I would on social media. Everything people see is me – no gimmicks. Perhaps being very approachable is a good thing to be? Some people don’t like having their life be so open book online, but I do believe it has helped me and my experience!

  6. Cherlyn says:

    I found your blog thru Rockstar Diaries – Love Taza (great job on the re-design btw) and so glad I did. This topic is sooo helpful as I make the leap into a more full time freelancer (photo+design) – not that I’m quitting my day job anytime soon – but all of this helps to push me further along on my road to working for myself and finally doing what I love to do, pay the bills. blah blah blah..so what I mean to say is..THANK YOU! Hope you keep this series up :)

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