5 things to know before you quit your 9-5 job to freelance.
Your keys make a harsh clanking sound after you plop them onto your desk, sending you out of your daze. You pull your laptop out of your work bag and place it on its stand just like you did yesterday and will do tomorrow. The laptop emits a quiet hum as you both begin to finally wake up. Sleep mode.
You sit down at your desk and pull out your to-do list, trying to prolong the last few minutes before you need to start weeding through your email. You try to focus, but your mind is wandering far, far away from what's in front of you.
Does this sound familiar?
I totally get it because I was just there; you can't stop thinking about leaving your 9-5 office job to pursue your side gig full-time. But how do you do it? How do you get from daydreaming to doing?
It took me about six months from the moment I decided I was going to pursue freelancing as a full-time job to actually leaving. Everyone has a unique career journey and there is most definitely no "one-size fits all" plan to doing this, but I wanted to share a few things I've learned in the ~5 months of being on my own.
1. Plan for (literally) everything. There's no question that planning for and developing your business is an exciting thing. Your mind is full of ideas and things you want to try. That's why you're here reading this, right?
From building your brand to deciding between FreshBooks and QuickBooks, you're immersing yourself in a whole new world of possibility. But, as you build your business from the ground up, be sure to account for anything and everything. This sounds like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised by what might slip from your mind while you're perfecting that SOW template.
Plan for the hard and scary times, but also plan for the unexplainable happiness that you'll feel as a business owner. Plan for dealing with toxic clients. Plan for celebrating successful projects. Plan for hitting your first income milestone. Plan for errors with billing. Plan for everything.
2. Establish your safety net. Everyone's situation is different, but I think we can all agree that having some kind of safety net to keep in your back pocket while you get up and running is a smart move. The beginning stages can be stressful and scary, but they're also full of excitement. However, as I mentioned above, there's always a chance that things don't go according to plan.
A client project could fall through due to budgeting issues or they could decide to take things in-house. Whatever the case may be, having some kind of back up plan will save you if and when you need it. Having a savings account can also take away some of the stress of starting a new business.
Your plate is already full with client projects, new business development, managing your finances, etc. Trust me when I say you won't want to be worrying about covering rent as you're pulling together a big pitch.
I recommend having at least three months of expenses covered before you take the leap. I'm talking rent, food, gas, utilities, car payment, etc. If you're paying for it, plan for it.
But that is just one gal's opinion. The whole point of working for yourself is that you call your own shots. If the pressure of making money helps you make money, then, by all means, do what will help you get the job done.
3. Go with the flow because things can and will change. Before you start planning, before you start pitching potential clients, and definitely before you quit your job, accept that things will go wrong at some point down the line. But you know what? That's absolutely okay.
In my opinion, when things go wrong it's an opportunity for you to take a step back and think about if you need to make any changes. Maybe you've been spending a lot of time and effort on something that you don't actually like doing. Maybe you've been working with a toxic client for too long. Whatever the case may be, when things go awry, it's a chance for you to look at your business and course-correct.
Be flexible and be ready for things to change at the drop of a hat.
4. Don't forget about yourself. I'm sure you've heard this before, but it rings true, I promise. In the midst of building your business, hitting deadlines, and keeping clients happy, it's easy to forget about yourself. No one is going to tell you to take the day off. No one is going to tell you to tell you to make sure you leave the office at 5:00 p.m. You have to take care of yourself otherwise you will be looking burnout straight in its cold, dark, bloodshot eyes.
Yes, you are making things happen, but you also need to remember that you are a human being that needs a break. Here's some earth-shattering wisdom for you: You are allowed to rest. You are allowed to take the day off and not read your email. You are allowed to put on your vacation responder. You are allowed to work when you are most productive. You are allowed to go to happy hour with your friends. You are allowed to not work at all on the weekend. You are allowed to live your life.
My advice here is simple: Show up, do your work, and don't forget about your off-screen life.
5. Remember, you are in charge of your time. This is similar to my last point, but I felt the need to call this out because so many freelancers and business owners forget this. You are ultimately in charge of your time.
If you work best in the morning, work in the morning. If all your Holy Sh*t How Did I Just Think of That ideas come from your couch in your pajamas, keep those slippers on and get back to it. Whatever helps you do your best work, keep doing that.
Despite this article, there's only so much you can read online about these beginning days of getting your business or freelance career up and running. Most of it you will have to learn on your own and experience yourself firsthand. But that's part of the fun, isn't it?
Now get back to it.