While a freelance career may conjure up images of working on your laptop from faraway sandy beaches, the reality may be quite different.
Before deciding to quit your job, consider how much experience you have and how much money you’ve saved. Are you self-disciplined? Are you comfortable living without a steady paycheck? You don’t get paid for looking for freelance opportunities. On the other hand, being your own boss, having flexibility and freedom, and doing work you enjoy are enticing benefits to many.
While a freelance career may be just right for you, it’s important to review these considerations from Forbes Coaches Council members before taking the leap.
Clockwise from top left: Lea Woodward, Corey Blake, Dave Ursillo, Jane Hundley, Virginia Franco, Michelle Tillis Lederman, Debra Russell, Emily Kapit, Terra Bohlmann, Wendi Weiner, Barbara Safani. All photos courtesy of the individual members.
1. Do Plenty of Freelancing Before You Leap
If possible, gain as much freelance experience as you can before you leave your job. Completing, say, five projects as a freelancer will give you some valuable experience about what it’s going to take to do this full time. You’ll learn what it takes to gain new business, what’s needed to deliver results, and how to get control of all the tasks associated with running your own business. –Lea Woodward, Virtual COO
2. Find a Family
The challenge with freelancing is that you only get to do the thing you love about 50 percent of the time; you also have to find the clients, move people through your sales funnel, negotiate the contracts, manage the billing, and on and on. Before you decide to go off on your own, see if there is a family you can join where the business handles the business and supports you in focusing on what you love. –Corey Blake, Round Table Companies
3. Don’t Short-Change Yourself
Tons of freelancers go through a slow evolution when they’re just getting started. They begin as “starving artists” and working endlessly to “just get by” until they realize this isn’t the lifestyle they imagined when they began. Don’t short-change yourself: Set a higher price point than you think you deserve. Trust yourself to make your work far and away exceed that value. – Dave Ursillo, The Literati Writers
4. Have People You Can Call On
Going freelance demands a strong network of people who know your talent, special powers and worth. Some need to be trusted folks who see your blind spots but still inspire you and your vision. You’ll need clarity about the unknown obstacles you will face. Before you leave your corporate cushion, be generous, so when you need to “call in favors” you’ll feel okay about doing so. – Jane Hundley, Impact Management Inc Coaching and Training
5. Take Stock Before Jumping
Before making the leap to freelance, take stock. Consider your financials, schedule, in-house inventory and level of risk-aversion. Talk to others and then evaluate if you have the tools you need to freelance. Or, if purchases are required, how much time you can dedicate to marketing and actual freelance work. And most importantly, consider your comfort level with an unsteady paycheck. – Virginia Franco, Virginia Franco Resumes
6. Understand Your Base
Freelancing is unpredictable and you have to calculate what you need to earn. Need is different than want. The work you chose initially will be about covering that base need number. Look for regular and reliable sources for ongoing work. Once the base is reached, you can be more selective with the additional work. – Michelle Tillis Lederman, Executive Essentials
7. Stop Thinking of Yourself as a Freelancer
Don’t think of yourself as either self-employed (just because the IRS categorizes you that way doesn’t mean you have to) or freelance. You must think of yourself as a business owner. Otherwise, you’re just going from one job to another — a job with no benefits or vacation time! As a businessowner, you create more than a gig; you create a legacy. – Debra Russell, Artist’s EDGE
8. Work Up to It Over Time
Rather than making one big leap from corporate work into full-time freelancing, perhaps slowly start to ramp up your freelance work on the side for a few months while still employed full time. The benefit here is two-fold: You’ll be able to build up your freelance work without financial pressures and can actually save money in the process. – Emily Kapit, MS, MRW, ACRW, CPRW, ReFresh Your Step, LLC
9. Start Building Your Network Now
Before you quit your corporate job, start building your network of people who are interested in what you are selling. Your network will not only purchase from you but also send you referrals. Create authentic relationships while networking. Once you book your first few side gigs, then quit. Make sure money is flowing outside of your paycheck before turning in your letter of resignation. – Terra Bohlmann, BrightBound
10. Have Your Exit Plan Ready
You must have your exit plan ready when you walk out of that corporate door. Four important things to remember: First, ensure that you have sufficient funds to help carry you during the transition of no longer having a steady paycheck. Second, ensure that you have freelance projects you can build upon. Third, have a strong support network. Fourth, be prepared to make cuts in frivolous spending. – Wendi Weiner, JD, NCRW, CPRW, CCTC, CCM, The Writing Guru