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5 Things You Must Do When You Switch From a Full-Time Job to Freelance Work

GrapeImages / Getty Images
GrapeImages / Getty Images

The freelance wave is here, and millions of people are getting on board. For instance, the number of freelancers in America increased from an estimated 53 million in 2014 to 59 million in 2020. People decide to freelance for many reasons: lower commuting costs, increased flexibility, work-life balance, poor local job market, etc. Some freelancers even make more money than they made while working full-time.

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While there are reasons aplenty to freelance, the transition isn’t always easy. Freelancing comes with responsibilities that aren’t in the picture for full-time workers. Here are some things you must do to ensure a seamless transition from full-time work to freelancing.

Identify Your Skills and Services

Before you even start freelancing, you must determine your skills and what you will offer as a freelancer. It may seem obvious, but people sometimes switch to freelancing when they hear about its perks. But freelancing is a business, and in order to thrive, you must identify what sets you apart from other freelancers.

The best place to start is often with the skills you’ve learned at your full-time job. For example, if you are a registered nurse, you might decide to become a freelance healthcare writer. If you work full-time as a graphic or web designer, you can do those jobs as a freelancer.

Once you have identified your skills, you should research the market. Find out if there is demand for your skills, and if so, assess the rates. If there is demand at rates that suit you, then you might have a viable business as a freelancer.

Set Up and Manage Your Finances

Whether you work full-time or freelance, money is important — but freelancers have more to consider. This is because if you are a self-employed freelancer, you are the employee and technically the employer as well. That means managing the finances for both sides of the equation.

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You must do many things to manage your finances when you freelance, but here are some of the basics:

  • Set up a business bank account

  • Set up an invoicing system

  • Create a budget and track business expenses

  • Set aside money for self-employment taxes

  • Determine your pricing and payment schedule

These are just a few financial tasks you will have as a freelancer. One could also mention health insurance here, as most Americans have health insurance through work. You can enroll in a marketplace plan or buy private insurance as a freelancer. Unfortunately, these plans are often more expensive than you had while working full-time.

Manage Your Time

They say time is money, but in the case of freelancing, you must develop systems to manage both of them. For instance, you must create a schedule and set deadlines for yourself. Some freelancers use a spreadsheet to track deadlines; others use a Google Calendar. Personally, I use Asana to track my deadlines.

There is much more that goes into time management. For instance, you must prioritize important tasks or ones that will take more time. You should also avoid procrastination, so you don’t end up cutting corners and end up producing poor quality. Lastly, you should also take breaks frequently to avoid burnout.

Develop Relationships with Clients

Building relationships with clients is crucial if you want to be successful as a freelancer. It starts with your first interaction but must continue throughout your time working with them.

First, you must communicate effectively. There are many ways to communicate — email, LinkedIn and at conferences, for example. Through these interactions, you can begin to understand what the client needs and what they expect from you.

Once you begin your work, you must do quality work and meet your deadlines. If you can’t meet a deadline, let your client know the situation and ask if they can give you more time. Then, when the work is done, ask for feedback and address any concerns that arise.

Build Your Brand

In addition to building relationships with clients, you should also build your brand. Here are some of the key components:

  • Define your brand identity

  • Create a portfolio of your work

  • Establish your online presence

  • Network with potential clients

Even if you don’t want to be an influencer, there is still work to be done. For instance, you should develop your specialty as a freelancer. If you are a graphic designer, what kind of graphic design do you do? Again, you want to stand out from the crowd.

You should also create a portfolio and update it regularly. To start, you can also create a portfolio on your own website or blog. If your name is easy to remember, the domain for your portfolio can be your name. Of course, that assumes your name is easy to spell (unlike mine) and that the .com domain is available. Alternatively, you can link to your portfolio items in places like Contently and Muck Rack.

Bottom Line

Switching from full-time work to freelancing has many benefits, like better work-life balance, flexibility and skipping the commute. But you must identify your skills, manage your time and money, develop relationships with clients and build your brand.

Taking these steps is essential if you want to succeed as a freelancer.

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This article originally appeared on 5 Things You Must Do When You Switch From a Full-Time Job to Freelance Work