A few years ago I decided to close my handmade shop to devote more time to my blog and freelance styling. The switch was somewhat abrupt and was led out of fatigue and frustration. Years later though I would recommend that if you're considering doing something similar, prepare yourself to make the transition easier. At the time I decided to pursue freelance I had a newborn baby and a 4 year old at home with me so my availability to work was ridiculously slim and had I been more honest with myself I might have decided to stick with the safer route a little bit longer. The handmade shop had become very time consuming not just in the production but in filling orders on time, keeping up with customer emails and following up with tracking or shipping problems. I was doing it all alone while also taking care of the kids which meant my work time was at night, often times all through the night meaning I slept only a handful of hours most nights. And with a newborn if I wasn't up late working I was up with her feedings and rocking her back to sleep. Obviously, I was burning the candle at both ends and not very effective at anything I was trying to accomplish however transitioning to freelance!
In the years since I can look back and reflect on my mistakes and my successes, hindsight is 20/20 after all. While I made plenty of mistakes I am still glad for my choice as it has given me a bit more flexibility with my schedule. I still work at night most of the time and can take time away to take the kids to their piano and ballet classes. I'm able to spend more time with my daughter before she begins school and often times I'm working without a full face of makeup and office attire (meaning, pajamas). Also, you can set your own rate and make sure you are getting paid your worth. Freelancing can also mean working with companies you admire and are genuinely passionate about. Below are some of the steps I would recommend you can take to set yourself up for success in your freelancing career.
1. Safety Net
If you’re going to be venturing out on your own, one of the first things you should consider is how much money you should set aside in case of emergency. Freelancing can be fickle work, and you’ll most likely need some time to gain consist clients or a good reputation, so giving yourself some runway is a wise. Most advise setting aside 50 percent of your income; which may seem high, but fairly accurate considering the volatility of freelancing. In order to succeed, you’ll need a financial plan and one that allows you to live above paycheck to paycheck.
Building toward becoming a true freelancer is going to take work, as you’re basically starting your own business. You could consider applying for a small loan as personal or business lines of credit, one that I've used was Paypal's Working Capital which takes a portion of your sales as they come in. However if you can save and start off with some financial padding, I think this is the best option.
Having a business line of credit for travel or small expenses might not be a bad idea to earn perks while you cover costs, but only put what you can pay off at the end of each month on the card. Proceed with caution however because if you have a slow month, you might not be able to pay off your balance in full, causing you to incur interest charges. The best way to think about this process is to consider it more like launching your own company and to prepare your finances accordingly.
2. Dream Big
It's really importune tot have goals and a plan but if you're too practical that won't help you much in freelancing either. You need to know how to have unrealistic, bigger than life dreams in order to achieve success. Having a dream and then making plans by breaking them up into shorter and more achievable steps will help you to see purpose in your work but also feel that the dream is not out of reach. By breaking up your end game into smaller, bite-sized pieces you won't feel easily discouraged if you don't see your dream come to fruition right away.
This is a piece of advice I'm taking as well. It's easy to lose sight of the dream when you're busy with the day to day. Reality is that there will be some jobs you don't love or some jobs that don't you won't feel are contributing to the dream but that's ok. You have a larger picture and sometimes the road to success ebbs and flows, not a steady incline.
3. Improve Your Skill, Increase Your Value
Although improving your skills is something you should already be constantly building toward, if you’re going to be freelancing, you need to be even more competitive. This is coming from one of my own personal goals for 2018. I've wanted to improve my photography skills and knowledge for years but I've put it off. This year however I've signed up for some classes and allot a little bit of time every other night for researching photo editing techniques. A professional photographer, for example, can charge an average of $9.19 to $36.65 per hour, which is a pretty dramatic range. One of the most difficult tasks of a freelancer is learning how valuable your time and skills are, so you can price yourself fairly.
If there is any one thing freelancers are quick to sell themselves short on, it’s the amount they charge for gigs. Many people are afraid to ask for what they’re worth because they don’t want to turn off potential clients, but just as many are just flat-out unsure of what they can acceptably charge. While this does tend to become clearer the longer you’re in the game, it’s never too early to think about how your rates reflect your value.
If you’re looking for ways to improve your skills and increase your chargeable value, there are more than a few options you should consider. First and foremost, freelancers need to build their portfolio, whether it’s a photographer taking on some free shoots or a graphic designer doing a few website layouts at a discounted rate. There are also tons of online courses to help you grow in your industry, and with the growing gig economy, there are countless ebooks and online resources available to learn more about the business side of things, too. Educating yourself about your business will make you more appealing to potential customers, who can take you more seriously with a wide portfolio and a few credentials.
3. Start Marketing Yourself
When it comes to freelancing, getting your name and work out there is key to being successful. Finding ways to getting your site and work exposure will come through networking and social media is the best place to do this.
Use social media as a type of profile showcasing who you are and what your works all about. Sharing process photos is also key in conveying your brand and values but also allows people to create a more personal connection with you and your work. Also be sure that the imagery you share is thoughtfully curated so that when a potential client visits your page they quickly get an overall sense of who you are and what your capabilities are. Use unique and specific hashtags to make our images easier to find and be sure to engage with others like you and with those you'd like to work with. It might not be a bad idea to use your social networks to also tell those in your immediate circle that you’re available for hire, too, just in case they have friends or family interested in your line of work.
Freelancing can be an opportunity to work with what you’re genuinely passionate about, and that freedom is one of the greatest joys of the job. With a little effort, you can experience all that the freelancing lifestyle has to offer.
How did you become a full-time freelancer? Share your story, good or bad, in the comments below.