What you need to know before freelancing full-time

There’s something about working as a freelancer that’s very attractive. There’s no one telling you what to do, you work when you want to and most importantly you get to work with what you love to do! It’s like a dream come true and it most certainly can be, but it’s not for everyone. And if you look through the web you probably going to find a lot of success stories, but you don’t hear so much about those who struggle and fail.

So before you decide to jump into the world of freelancing I suggest you take a moment and really think it through. I will give some pointers right now as to what you need to know before you make a decision that will change your life.

It can be lonely

This is something you need know right of the bat. You’re probably used to work in an environment with other colleagues, but now you will be working from home (at least in the beginning). There’s no body else home, the kids will be in kindergarten/school and your significant other is at work. It’s just you and your computer.

This can have an impact on your mood and not to mention your work. I would highly recommend if you can afford it to get an office on your own, or at least rent a desk somewhere. That way you get a more sense of actually going to work and you’re away from distractions.

From my own experience, my wife would often ask me to do this or that, simply because I was working from home.

There’s no one to hold your hand

You are responsible for getting s*** done. There’s no on there to hold your hand and to tell you what you need to do. No one to make sure you reach your goals, or if you even get any work done.

It’s important to hold yourself accountable, how you do it doesn’t matter. If you don’t do this you’ll end up in loop between Facebook, Twitter, some blog, and so on…

You need to have some sense of self-discipline to make this work, although there methods and apps out there to help you stay focused. I suggest planning your day the night before, just make a quick checklist. This way you’ll also sleep better, because you don’t think about what you need to do tomorrow.

Work during the day

I know it seems tempting to sleep in late and and just work in the late evening or night, but I would highly recommend you work during the day. But more importantly you need to figure out at what time during the day you’re most efficient. When do you usually get most work done? Personally I find myself more efficient in morning before 12 pm, so that’s when I choose to do my energy draining work.

Also it’s not good for your health to constantly working in the night. It will make you more tired and you’ll lack that extra energy.

It will make you feel better to wake up in morning, take shower, get dressed, grab some breakfast and a coffee and head of to your office. AND you’ll be more available to your clients during the day.

Dealing with clients

This might be a new territory for you. You want to make sure that your clients feel like they are being taking care of, that you listen to their needs. It’s important that your communication with them is clear so you avoid misunderstandings in the future. And of course you want to impress them by doing good work.

I’m not saying you should bend backwards for your clients, but you need to set some ground rules and show them what your process is like. You don’t want be a push over. If I would give you one piece of advice, it would be that you only work with clients that you feel is going to be a good fit.

It could be that in the beginning you can be picky about who you work with, so be prepared to face all kinds of clients. Some are great to work with and some can be a true nightmare.

Prepared to be asked to lower your price

You are most likely used to being paid a fixed salary every month, with a standard raise every year, paid leave, different perks, etc. When you’re freelancing you’re responsible for your own earnings. In order to succeed you need to be able to steadily raise your rates as you get more experienced and gaining a reputation for yourself.

I’m not a fan of $40 an hour rates, this is just ridiculous. I suggest starting at at least $70 and work your way up. For every new client raise your rates with… say $5. For this to work though you have to feel confident with your rate, if you’re not you’ll end up lowering your rate when you’re asked to do so by your client.

There will always be those who want your services for the lowest price possible, just make sure you don’t give in. If they won’t accept your rate, help them find someone who’s willing to take on their project. It’s ok to say NO. You’re not for everyone.

Don’t get too personal or emotional

It’s easy to get emotional and maybe even personal when it comes down to your business. There will be erratic clients, unreasonable demands, rejections, not getting pay in time, or not even being paid at all. Either way you need to handle these thing s with a certain bit of tact and finesse.

Take time to breath and think before you speak or answer back in an email. It’s not going to be easy, but you’re a professional now so you need to act professional as well. It’s like the saying “keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer”.

Keep up with the latest

It’s important that you stay on top of what’s happening in your industry. That being said, you don’t need go out and learn absolutely everything, but make sure you know what will benefit you and how you can take advantage of it.

Your time is valuable, so don’t waste time on trends that doesn’t apply to you or your business.

Support from friends and family

If there’s one thing that’s going to be important (well, there’s one more thing…) it’s having the support from family and friends. You’re going to be spending time worring about making ends meet and if you don’t have someone backing you and cheering you on, you’re going to hit a wall eventually.

If don’t have the support, you’re going to end up with a stress level out of this world. And that’s not healthy.

There are definitely going to be days when you don’t feel like doing any work at all, trust me. If you have someone to support you during those moments, whether it’s your spouse, partner or parents, to tell you that they believe in you and that you’re great at what you do, that’s going to boost your confidence.

Friends a just as important during your first few months. They can help you spreading the word, and get you some referrals. I also think it’s important to be honest with not only yourself, but to the people who support you. If things are tough, tell them. Maybe they can help, but if nothing else they will listen to what you have to say.

Make sure you have some extra savings

This is the second most important thing. But first of I would suggest you make sure have some clients on board already before you start freelancing. They won’t fall into your lap as soon as you tell the world you’ve quit your job and started freelancing.

Even though you might have some clients from the start, don’t expect them to keep you afloat full-time. You are starting a business from scratch, and sooner or later you are going to have to get out there and find more clients. And this will take some time.

I recommend having at least 6 month of savings. There will be months that are very slow and you’re going to need to take money form your savings. Then again you’ll have months that are more fruitful. Point is you’ll be much more at ease if you know you have some money set aside during those tough months.

Treat this as a business

You’re a freelancer, but make sure you treat it as a business. I’m not hear to tell you if you don’t to this and that you’ll fail. These are just some of my own experienceses and I think that you are more likely to succeed if you take these points into considerations before taking the plunge.

Have you made any changes after you started freelancing?

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3 Comments
  • Aleksandra

    8. March 2015 at 19:52 Reply

    In other words, treat freelancing as any other job. I’ve been working as a freelancer on various online job platforms like oDesk and Elance for the last couple of years and I can confirm – everything mentioned here is true. You literally start your way from nothing and build yourself to the top. There’s no one to push you or guide you, you have to get everything done by yourself. But once you get the hang of it, freelancing can be more rewarding and laid back than any other profession out there.

    • Ken Westgaard

      9. March 2015 at 09:05 Reply

      You’re right Aleksandra, but that’s what people forget. They think it’s going to be laid back from day one, when in fact it’s not like that at all. Sure, you’ll eventually get there, but you got to work hard first.

  • Callie

    10. June 2015 at 08:11 Reply

    An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a colleague who has been doing a little
    research on this. And he in fact ordered me breakfast because I discovered it for him…
    lol. So let me reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanks for spending the time to discuss this topic here
    on your site.

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