A question that often comes up in freelancing forums is, “when should I start freelancing full time?” The enquirer usually follows or precedes this with a bit of information about their personal circumstances and any relevant work experience that they have had in the past. It usually goes something like this:
Hi, My name’s Lucas. I currently work full time at an Advertising Agency in London. I do a bit of copywriting there, but I don’t have direct contact with clients. I’m not sure if I could take any of them with me if I left. I really want to get into freelance copywriting but I don’t know if I should wait until I’ve built up more of a client base. When’s the best time to start freelancing? Any and all ideas welcome.
Perhaps the best way to respond to this is with another question, “How much do you want to work as a freelancer?” In other words, what does it mean to you? This is because, put bluntly, the ‘right time’ will probably not come along.
Transferring to full time freelancing is always going to be a financial risk – unless you are lucky enough to land a retainer from a company that is going to cover your bills for the next few years. It is also likely to be a psychologically difficult time because of the change in your working environment, potentially spending a lot of time working alone and because of the looming prospect of an unstable future. Another potential stumbling block is that you are going to have to spend a lot of time marketing your services when you first set yourself up (and this never completely goes away). For a number of personality types, this can be quite a daunting prospect.
If Lucas can answer that he is determined to start working as a freelancer – and that this is the vision that he has for his life moving forwards – then there are a number of things that he can do to get to as close to a ‘right time’ to start his new journey as possible.
- Financial planning: Success in freelancing is not going to happen overnight, so it is worth planning how you are going to pay the bills for the first two or three months. Your partner or spouse may be able to cover essential payments in the short term or you may need to save money for this in advance. If you are thinking about freelancing in the future, where can you start making savings now?
- Working out what you are selling and who you are selling it to: Even though you are likely to be working for yourself, it can be worth filling in a ‘Business Plan’. Business Plans can help you to articulate the strategies and objectives for your business, work out who you are marketing your services to and help you to produce financial forecasts. A good free template for writing a business plan can be found at gov.uk.
- Contingency planning: It’s important to think about how you might make extra money if things are slow or just to have some guaranteed income week on week. For some people this might mean finding an extra part time job, whilst others might join local temping agencies. You could also offer private tutoring as an additional source of income.
- Building a website: There are a number of resources online which enable you to build a professional looking website for free without any specific IT training. The most popular of these is WordPress. You can either build your website via the WordPress Website or download the software onto your existing domain. Setting up a website is something that you can do before making the jump to working as a freelancer full time and is a great marketing tool for your services.
- Building your presence on different social media platforms: It can also help to start to build your network on Social Media sites like Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter. This will give you an audience to initially promote your services to, as well as a platform to get feedback on your blog posts.