This post was contributed by Carolyn Bothwell, an award-winning copywriter and founder of Freelance Founders, an online platform that empowers freelancers to build financially viable businesses for the long-term.
I’ve been a full-time freelancer for nearly three years. Here’s what I know for sure: It’s not as scary as it sounds, it does get easier, and there is plenty of work to be had.
I began moonlighting – a term used to describe working a side hustle after your 9-to-5 job – a couple of years ago. And, that’s when I truly began to understand what the world of freelance had to offer. In addition to flexibility and freedom, I saw a long-term career of working for a boss I loved: myself. Now, I help other creative and marketing professionals make the leap from full-time corporate to freelance. And I always offer the same pieces of advice.
Take Time to Transition
If you have the luxury of choosing to leave your full-time job in order to freelance, ask your current company to help you make the transition. Chances are, they need you just as much as you need them. Be transparent about your upcoming plans and your timeline. Ask your current employer if you can work part-time while they find your replacement — and even offer to help train the “new you.” Not only does this keep your relationships on good terms (hello, future freelance gigs), but it also gives you time to adjust and maintain a steady stream of income while you build your client base.
Network. Network. Network.
When you begin to work for yourself, it may feel lonely at first. And building up your client base takes time. Luckily, the freelance community is extremely friendly. When I first went freelance, I created an Instagram account dedicated to my business, and I DM’d every freelancer and creative studio that I could find. I quickly formed lasting relationships, which not only helped me find the advice I needed but also resulted in a steady stream of client referrals. I’m based in Boston, but through digitally networking, I have been able to work with clients worldwide. It may not be networking as you know it, but the internet and social media are great resources when it comes to finding community. (Also, check out Freelance Founders. We have a diverse group of freelancers, all dedicated to strengthening our collective community.)
Going freelance isn’t for the faint of heart. Yes, you get flexibility and freelance, but you also have to run a legitimate business. I highly, highly recommend consulting with a small business lawyer and accountant before registering your business. As a full-time freelancer, you have your creative freedom, but you also have administrative tasks – like invoicing. Luckily, there are new tools, like Moxi, that are here to make it easier.
Build Your Client Base
When it comes to building your client base, it’s really helpful to present the types of brands that you want to work on your portfolio. Then, don’t be afraid to send out cold inquiries to your dream clients. In the beginning, a lot of it comes down to networking. But, if you continue to put out your best work with every project, you’ll find that the majority of your clients will come through referrals.
Check out our partner, Freelance Founders