Perhaps it’s been your lifelong dream to work independently, or maybe you recently discovered the wonders of freelancing. Either way, leaving your full-time job to become a full-time freelancer is an exciting but scary step. So, how do you know when you’re ready?
No matter what your craft or passion, whether you’re a writer or software developer from a company like BairesDev, here are eight telltale signs that it’s time to dive into the deep end.
1. You know what you’re getting into
Maybe you hate your current job, but that’s not reason enough to quit, even if you’ve gotten a taste of what freelancing is all about. You need to truly understand what you’re giving up: employer-sponsored health insurance, paid time off, job security, and many other perks of being a salaried employee. You’ll also have to work really hard and potentially longer hours because as a freelancer, you’ll only get paid when you’re actually working.
Many people believe freelancing is all about flexibility and being able to work from home, but you’ll have deadlines like anyone else, and working from home can get isolating. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the plunge, but it does mean you should be cognizant of the challenges of freelance life before you decide to take them on.
2. You have savings
Financial stability can be a real challenge when you embark on the freelance journey. Because you’ll lack the job security you may have had previously, you won’t necessarily know how much money will be coming into your bank account from one month to the next.
Make sure to build up a safety net first. Generally speaking, you should have at least 3-6 months worth of living expenses saved up. Remember, you probably won’t be making as much money as you previously were when you’re starting off, so those savings can be a life-saver.
3. You’ve built up a network — and are willing to keep building
Freelancing requires a good deal of networking. When you leave your full-time job, you should have plenty of contacts. Ideally, you’ll have an anchor or client who gives you regular work so you have something to fall back on during leaner times. No matter what, you should know plenty of people in your industry and shouldn’t be shy about reaching out to them to offer your services.
It’s also not a one-and-done deal. You never know when a client might decide they don’t have the budget to accommodate you or simply don’t require your services anymore. That’s why you need to build up a pipeline to find new projects. You’ll have to keep hustling — freelancing is not for the faint of heart.
4. You have freelancing experience
If you’ve only ever worked a 9-5 job and have never taken on a side hustle, you’re not ready for the freelance life. You need to have at least gotten a taste of the contractor experience to know if you like the working style and see it as something you could do full-time.
Working relationships with clients are very different from those with employers. For one, you’ll largely be setting the terms, as opposed to your employer doing so, and you won’t be provided with as many resources, such as a workstation. It’s also helpful to have freelancing experience so you have something to turn to when you do quit your job — starting from scratch with no clients is ill-advised.
5. You don’t have time for everything on your plate.
It’s not a bad problem to have — having so many clients wanting the services that you have to turn down gigs. But if this is the case, it could be a sign that you have enough work to replace your full-time salary and are ready to go full-time freelance.
You might also find that you have too much work and are staying up late to finish everything. That’s another indication that it may be time to leave, especially if you value your freelance work more than your full-time job.
6. You’re self-motivated
Flexibility is a benefit of freelance life, but you have to be willing to be strict with yourself in order for it to work. Because no one but you will be keeping track of deadlines and requiring you to get out of bed by a certain time every day, you’ll have to do it yourself. You’ll need to make your own goals and keep yourself on a schedule.
You also may find that freelancing is draining, so it’s also important to keep yourself motivated to keep going when you’re feeling down or isolated. You might try to incorporate new habits that push you, whether it’s a run in the morning or a trip to the same coffee shop each day.
7. You’re not averse to risk
There’s no doubt about it: being a full-time freelancer is risky. Some people need the security of a full-time, salaried job, and you have to be open to the alternative. There’s the financial risk, of course, and there’s also the risk of having to continually face rejection — not every contact to whom you reach out will want your services, and sometimes, clients will let you go.
It’s important to understand that this might not work out for you immediately and be willing to take the leap anyway.
8. You know your worth
As a freelancer, you’ll often be charged with setting your own rates. That means you’ll have to recognize what your services are worth. Don’t sell yourself short: if you lowball prospective clients, they might think your services just aren’t that valuable. You should also learn to recognize when it’s time to raise your rates and develop the negotiation skills for asking for more money.
Additionally, you might sometimes have to chase down clients for payment, and that involves a certain degree of confidence. You’ll need to become comfortable with being bold.
Leaving your job to become a full-time freelancer could be a great step, but it’s not for everyone. It’s important to recognize if you’re truly suited to the work style and know the signs if and when you’re ready to go for it.