This past year I was fortunate enough to make the transition from being a full-time employee to freelance worker. I felt stuck in my nine-to-five (actually it was more like eight-to-six, but who’s counting?) and it seemed like everyone online was talking about having “financial freedom.” Blogs for work-at-home moms were covered with ads and slogans to touting “Be your own boss!” complete with an image of a perfect Mom or mom-to-be balancing her laptop in one hand, a ladle in the other, and piles of perfectly folded laundry in the background.
The imagery was overwhelming. How could I achieve such career minded/domestic goddess goals and still have time to have some semblance of a life? Would quitting my full-time job and jumping into freelance work really give me all of the freedom and bliss that these blogs portrayed?
Well, I’ll tell it to you straight: Of course not. What those gimmicky sites don’t tell you is that there is a huge amount of research, work, and lack of sleep involved to make a flexible work from home career possible. That’s not to say that it isn’t totally worth it for some people (myself included!). But this journey has taught me that making such a huge life and career change isn’t glamorous, even if the internet tells you it is. ?
If you’re considering leaving your full time employment status behind, here are a few tips to help you make the transition to freelance work as painless as possible.
The Devil Is In the Details
As with everything in life, timing and patience are your friends. While everyone is free to make their own career choices, I wouldn’t recommend quitting your full-time job without having a plan to replace your income. I mean, we all have bills to pay, right?
I spent months researching what opportunities might be available to me, what was realistic for my interests and skill set, and most importantly, what would give me the best chance of achieving a good level of work-life balance.
Of course, also on the forefront of my mind was, how will I pay the bills? Where could I get health insurance? Would I still have time to put dinner on the table at 6pm for my husband and kid each night?
I prioritized the things that were important to me, in both my career and personal life, so that I could make the best choice on how much longer I would need to stay in my full-time job before I making the leap into freelance work.
This Is My Dance Space, This Is Your Dance Space
I am fortunate enough to live in a home with my very own office, complete with a cute little wooden desk, a bookshelf with a fish tank, and a great window that overlooks the backyard; however, not everyone has the benefit of a space to call their own at home.
Before you think that you can work for 3, 4, or even 8 hours at a time from your couch or the kitchen table, let me warn you: It only seems like a good idea at the time! That couch will eventually start to hurt your back, and after your third night with no sleep and a sore shoulder, you’ll miss your desk chair. The kitchen? Forget it, unless you want to get up every 15 minutes for a snack.
Also, a warning about working from your local coffee shop: Make sure you are someone who can focus with lots of noise and people around. The first time I went to my local coffee shop, I ended up spending two hours people watching and listening to college kids gossip about their weekend instead of getting actual work done. Definitely not my most productive moments.
Take a pair of headphones and try to grab a table in a corner or away from the crowd. If there is a co-working space in your town, I recommend checking it out and giving it a try. It can provide a great space to work and can also give you the much needed human interaction that we can lose out on as freelancers.
Wherever you choose to work, my number 1 piece of advice is to make sure that you stay organized. Nothing distracts me more than a cluttered desk. Just like at your full-time job, you wouldn’t leave a stack of bills and your coffee from two days ago lying around, so treat your home workspace with the same respect. Be prepared to fill up notebooks with to-do lists, have a great calendar (or four!), and invest some time and money in online tools that will help you boost your efficiency.
Man (Lady) With A Plan
Before you jump off a diving board, you need to know how deep the water is. Similarly, when you’re planning your future freelance work, you need to hash out exactly what sort of work you’re planning to take on and how you’ll manage being self-employed.
Specifically, what do you want to achieve as a freelancer? What are your skills and interests and how can you incorporate those into your freelance work? Who is your ideal client? How many hours would you like to be working each week? These are all things you should have at least an idea of, if not a clear-cut answer, before you leave your full-time employment status behind for the freelance life.
Cut the Cord With Grace
Everyone has had a parent, teacher, or mentor advise them not to burn any bridges when leaving a job. Transitioning to freelance work is no different. You never know how your current work connections may come to help and benefit you in the future. (Referrals, anyone?)
Once you’re ready to announce that you’re leaving, make sure to give proper notice and continue to give your very best through your last day on the job.
Get Your Freelance Learn On
Now that you’re on your own, it’s going to be up to you to learn more and stay on top of your field. Remember to make time for broadening your skill sets, especially when you’re first starting out and only have a few clients. Use any extra time you may have to sign up for an online course, participate in a webinar, listen to podcasts from experts in your field, and maybe even attend an industry conference. It’s all about increasing your knowledge and networking!
Just remember that even with all of these tips in your back pocket, the transition from full-time employment into freelance work will take a lot of trial and error. As they say, the grass is always greener on the other side, and making this major life transition is no exception. However, for me (and I bet for most freelancers out there!), the freedom to choose when, where, and for who I work made the growing pains well worth it!