If you’ve been toying with the idea of starting a freelance career but have been fearful about the actual plunge, you’re not alone. Deciding to move out of a stable corporate job to chase the adventurous life of a freelancer can be a big (and scary) decision. While the call definitely demands courage, let’s get realistic—courage alone can hardly pay your bills! So, it’s only wise to take time out, evaluate your options and thoughtfully map your future course of action.
Your first step should be to figure out if your current full-time career or area of expertise can be modified to a freelance career. Some specialities like content, graphic design, digital marketing and coding can be successfully done independently, while other job functions are probably done best within an office set-up. Once you’ve figured out the feasibility of pursuing your career as a freelancer, follow these five tips to make your transition smoother:
Count the cost
Understand your own motivations, expectations and limitations; journal them if possible. What do you want from a freelance career? How will the switch impact your lifestyle in the short and long term? Do the pros outweigh the cons? While answering these questions may not directly impact your move, it will keep you grounded during the tough times.
Give yourself a trial period
Test the waters before you phase out of your current career. Keep your full-time job and do a few freelancing gigs on the side. This should give you a heads up on the skills you’d need and the challenges you might face when starting a freelance career. It will also take the pressure off from having to pay off all your bills from your freelancing income.
A word of caution though: some companies have a ‘conflict of interest’ clause that can restrict you from freelancing. Understand what your company’s policy is.
Build your own brand
Even if companies do restrict employees from taking on side hustles, they can hardly object to your taking on pro bono projects, as long as you are not using the company’s time or resources. While these projects may not immediately pay off, think of them as an investment which will earn you goodwill, a strong network and a string of recommendations. Your work can also be featured on your portfolio or website.
Hone your niche
If you’ve identified the service you’ll be providing, do a thorough research on the skills expected from this position. If you identify gaps, use every opportunity to hone your expertise in these areas by actively seeking out occasions to get hands-on experience.
Build your network
Freelancers thrive on a strong network, not just for recommendations but also for expertise. For instance, if you’re a graphic designer, and a client approaches you to help him/her with a website that requires extensive coding, it helps to know a coder whom you can recommend. Not only will this earn you the client’s goodwill, but chances are that your coder contact may send a project your way just when you most need it!
Freelance careers can be extremely gratifying if you know how to go about it. Here’s an opportunity to register for a contest and showcase your skills.