The freelance lifestyle looks awfully attractive from the confines of a corporate cubicle. Pod dwellers often envision pajama-clad, commute-free workdays, where flexibility reigns and no one gives you the side eye if you step out make to squeeze in that doctor’s appointment.
Of course, it’s not all upside. Chances are you’ll pay a lot more for that visit when you have to flip the bill for the entire insurance premium and while you’ll save time on the daily commute, you’ll likely spend that and more, drumming up business to work on in those PJs.
Work is, in the end, work. And no matter how green a colleague’s grass looks, it still needs to be mowed. The trick is selecting what’s most important for you at this stage in your life and then setting a plan in motion to win in that career setting. If after careful consideration, you decide to go freelance, take these five actions, before making the leap:
- Start Before You Begin: Get some of the business basics sorted on nights and weekends while you still have a job. Obviously, you can build your website, add to your contact list, and bolster on-line brand, but it’s also important to meet with an accountant or financial advisor to select the right type of business structure and sort things like taxes and insurance.
- Build a Nest Egg: Nothing is as jarring as receiving your final paycheck so before you begin the transition so make sure you have enough cash on hand to manage all your expenses for the transition period. Also, since you may not earn the same amount right away build in a buffer. A good rule of thumb is to double your transition time – i.e. save six months if you are planning a three-month transition. You don’t want to worry about money when you’re building a business.
- Establish Your Prices and Service List: New freelancers sometimes take the “I’ll do anything for any amount” mindset. This can lead to brand diffusion, customer confusion, and burnout. Be clear about what you offer for how much. Bonus tip: offer sweet spot and/or tier pricing to maximize revenue.
- Test the Waters: If possible, before going all in, test your freelance idea as a side hustle (assuming there’s no conflict of interest with your job). This will validate your assumptions i.e. is there a market for your service and do you possess all the skills to run a business. For example, if you love training, but hate the sales process, the transition may be tough.
- Do a Quarterly Assessment: There are a lot of positives to the freelance lifestyle, but it comes with its own challenges. Doing an honest self-assessment every three to six months on both the business and how you are feeling can help you validate your decision or change gears if necessary.
People shift to freelancing for an array of financial and personal reasons, but all hope to improve their circumstance. If the experiment doesn’t work for you, that’s okay. There’s no shame in changing course. If it does and you want to build something even bigger, go for it. Taking a pulse now and then is the only way to know for sure.
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Check out my latest book The HR Guide to Getting and Crushing Your Dream Job and follow me on Twitter at @timtoterhi or LinkedIn