Many people will tell you the best way to start freelancing is to stop second-guessing yourself and jump right in. While enthusiasm is always great, going freelance is the type of decision you need to prepare for. After all, we’re talking about a radical life change.
Don’t get me wrong! There are plenty of upsides to being a freelancer, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. That being said, there are a few things I wish I’d taken into consideration before taking the leap myself. Preparing my finances ahead of time, for example, would’ve spared me a lot of headaches during those first few months.
In this article, I’ll walk you through three things you should consider before kicking off your freelance career. We’ll talk about why they’re important and how to know if you’re ready, so let’s get started!
1. Take a Look at Your Finances
The first thing to take a look at before you start freelancing is your financial state. To be specific, do you have enough savings to last through several months of expenses?
Many people live paycheck to paycheck, and that’s to be expected. Unfortunately, it’s not compatible with the struggles that come with the first few months of freelancing. It is an unpredictable time and it may take longer to find your first clients than you expect.
Even after landing your first freelance writing jobs, you won’t get paid right away. You can negotiate some early deposits, but you’ll still have to stretch your budget while waiting for the money to show up in your account. I wasn’t prepared, so I had to go into the field with extra enthusiasm to make up for my lack of savings and hustle up income fast.
Thankfully, I was able to channel that energy on quick-paying projects, but it meant taking on gigs I didn’t want to touch with a ten-foot pole. Even though I survived, I wouldn’t recommend this approach! Here are a few tips to get you through that first couple of months the smart way:
- Calculate how much money you need per month and set a savings target before you dive in.
- Do not deviate from your budget until you land your first paid gigs.
- Include a down-payment clause in all your contracts.
If building up a savings account isn’t in the stars, you may want to consider keeping your day job while you land on your feet. It’ll be a scheduling nightmare, but you’ll have a safety net.
2. Check if You Can Dedicate Enough Time to Work and Look for Clients
A lot of people imagine freelancers working a few hours per day, then spending the rest of their time boasting about doing so from the comfort of their living room. I’ll be the first to admit from time to time, some days look like that! But it took years of hard work to get to that point.
As a freelancer, your time is your most valuable resource. You need to learn how to administer it on your own, with little supervision. You’ll constantly be looking for new clients, doing research, and meeting your deadlines. When everything is new, it’s easy to miscalculate exactly how long things take.
When I started, I made the same mistake many beginners do: I took on as much work as possible with a smile on my face and a ‘can-do’ attitude. Of course, I quickly discovered humans do need some sleep every so often.
Now, I have a system in place to make the most out of my time. It goes something like this:
- First, I budget at least four hours of work per day, always starting at the same time to build a routine.
- Then, I use the Pomodoro system to ensure I don’t get too distracted while working.
- Finally, I give myself plenty of leeway when it comes to deadlines.
Learning to deliver deadlines on time is particularly important when you’re just starting out. It’s easy to underestimate how much time any project will take you or to want to impress clients by doing everything quickly.
Over time, I’ve learned it’s best to work with clients who respect your time. I still take on the occasional breakneck deadline – but only for established clients in cases where they desperately need it, in the name of goodwill.
3. Make Sure You Have a Portfolio Ready to Go
Much like a peacock flaunts its tail feathers to find a mate, you’ll often need display your portfolio to land a new client when you start freelancing. That means as a newbie, you’ll want to set one up as quickly as possible, preferably before you start looking for jobs.
Having a portfolio makes you appear professional, and can also save you time during negotiations by including your process and your rates. Personally, I’m embarrassed to admit it took me a couple of years to get my portfolio up and running.
As a new freelancer, you won’t have much professional work to showcase, but it’s still possible to put up an acceptable portfolio. Here are a few tips to get you going:
- Showcase personal projects you’ve worked on lately and mention what makes them special.
- Include your contact information and forms to get in touch with you.
- Set up an email account using your portfolio’s domain, since a custom email shows you mean business.
- Don’t mention you’re new to freelancing!
That last tip may sound deceptive, but as long as you’re confident in your ability to deliver on client work, there’s no need to give them reasons to doubt you.
As for how to set up your portfolio, I’m a big fan of WordPress. If you’re unsure how to do it, check out our Blogging Mentorship Program, where we can help you get yours launched.
I’m a firm believer that if you want to do something, it’s best not to overthink to the point of inaction. This can apply to your start in freelancing, but it sure pays off to make sure you’re in a decent position to do it before jumping in head first. Regardless of how prepared you are, those first few months will certainly be full of surprises!
Before we part ways, let’s recap the three top ways to tell whether you’re ready to start freelancing:
- Check the state of your finances.
- Make sure you have enough time to dedicate to working and hunting for new clients.
- Try to get a portfolio up and running beforehand,
Is there a reason you haven’t started freelancing yet? Let’s talk about it in the comments section below!
Image credit: Pixabay.
Awesome! Really appreciate this!
Anne Dorko says
Thanks for reading, Biola! Glad you enjoyed it.
Most times you really know deep down inside that you need to take action and start doing something. The problem with me most times is trying loss of drive when you have done your marketing without any good results or clients to show for it. But I guess the drill should be to keep on trying till something happens.
Alexander Cordova says
That’s really what it boils down to – not giving up on it. Getting your first good clients is hard, but those can lead to referrals and it does get easier down the line!
I think I need to get into this. Writing was always my passion as a child and teen; I even attended an arts high school for their literary arts program. Somewhere along the way, though, I stopped writing (except for school assignments). I’m now working in a field that I am passionate about, but I don’t think is a great fit with my skill set. I just need to find something inspiring to write about…
Anne Dorko says
Yes, writing can be a wonderful form of expression. If you’re really stuck on what to write, you could try journalling to get back in the habit.
I use these three prompts every morning:
1. Gratefulness, “I am grateful for…”
2. Goals, “Today will be great if…”
3. Affirmations, “I am…”
Maybe after a week or two of writing down your answers to these prompts, you’ll find some inspiration on what you’d really like to write about. 🙂
You can also follow up by reading Alexander’s post on choosing a niche. It’s very helpful for the brainstorming process!