Freelancing is a great way to supplement your income and make some extra money on the side. However, many contractors take it one step further and decide to make freelancing their full-time career.
Most professionals have likely considered becoming a full-time freelancer at one point or another. But it can be a bit intimidating to strike out on your own and leave behind the security of a corporate job and a regular paycheque. That being said, there a number of skilled individuals who are freelancing full-time and doing extremely well.
So, just how do you become a full-time freelancer? Here are seven tips to help you transition from an office job to running your own freelance business.
Start by Freelancing Part-Time
If you haven’t started freelancing already, the first step is to begin doing it part-time. The great thing about freelance work is that you can do it whenever you like and as often as you like. You can pick up projects when you have time and make some extra money while you continue to work at your 9-5 job.
Not only will this help you get comfortable doing freelance work, but it will also allow you to build up your contacts, portfolio, and recommendations. That way, when you’re finally ready to go full-time you’ll have a solid foundation to build off of.
Secure Some Recurring Clients
The hardest part of becoming a full-time freelancer is getting regular work. Unlike when you work for an employer, you can’t always depend on a steady income. Some months you may have more work than you know what to do with, while other months might be relatively quiet.
One way to ensure you always get enough hours is to secure some recurring clients. These are clients who want to have an ongoing relationship with you and will continue to give you work each month.
These types of clients will be the foundation of your business, so search for opportunities that offer recurring work. But don’t be afraid to take on-off jobs either. Oftentimes, short-term contracts can turn into long-term working relationships if you do exceptional work.
If you can build up a few recurring clients you’ll be in a much better position when you decide to start freelancing full-time.
Save Some Money Before Making the Transition
As we just talked about, a freelancer’s income isn’t always steady. Your work hours will fluctuate throughout the year, with some months being slower than others.
One way to protect yourself against this is to have some savings set aside before becoming a full-time freelancer. This will give you some money to fall back on during those leaner months. It will also help support you during the early stages when you’re still building up your business.
If you’re thinking of transitioning into freelancing full-time it’s a good idea to have three months’ worth of expenses saved up.
Consider Health Insurance
If you currently work for a larger company you probably have health insurance through your employer. However, once you quit your job to become a full-time freelancer you’ll be responsible for all of your own medical bills.
So, before you take the plunge into freelancing you’re going to want to think about health insurance. Luckily, there are a number of insurance options for those who are self-employed.
The first thing you should look into is whether you’re covered under your spouse or partner’s health insurance plan. Or you can see if you’re able to convert your current health insurance from a group plan to an individual plan. The Freelancers Union also offers health insurance options for freelancers.
Health insurance can be pricey, so if you’re not covered under your spouse or partner’s plan make sure to leave room in your monthly budget for it.
Quit Your Job When You’re Ready
If your goal is to become a full-time freelancer then at some point you’re going to have to take the leap and quit your job. Make sure to wait until you’ve built up your freelance business and have enough savings in place before taking this step.
There’s no shame in taking your time. Some people might make the transition in a few months while others may wait years. You may also decide to do it in stages, reducing your hours with your employer while you gradually build up your freelancer clientele. Do whatever feels right to you.
Finally, make sure to leave your job on good terms. If you’ve done good work for your employer they can be a reference for you in the future. It’s also not uncommon for a previous employer to offer you freelance work down the road, so be sure not to damage the relationship when you leave.
Set Money Aside for Taxes
Another thing you have to think about once you’re self-employed is taxes. When you work for an employer they automatically deduct a certain percentage off each paycheque and put it towards your taxes. However, once you work for yourself it’s up to you to make sure you have enough money set aside for taxes.
It’s a good idea to set aside a certain percentage of each payment you receive. How much you’ll have to pay will depend on your yearly earnings, so research your local tax laws to determine how much you’ll potentially owe.
To make sure you always file your taxes correctly it’s a good idea to hire a professional accountant. They can review your income, deductions, and other important information every year to ensure you always follow the proper procedures.
Raise Your Rates as Demand for Your Services Grows
As a full-time freelancer, you’re in charge of giving yourself a raise, so don’t short-change yourself. Keep raising your rates as your business grows to ensure you’re valuing your time correctly and maximizing your profits.
If you’ve been working for a client for a while and have consistently delivered high-quality work there’s nothing wrong with asking for a higher rate. This is especially true if you’re receiving better offers from other clients.
And if you get to the point where you’re receiving so much work you’re having to turn some of it down it’s a good sign it’s time to increase your rates. Some of those offers will likely go away, but the clients you’re left with will be the ones that value your time the most.
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