The Harpoon Blog

When is the Right Time to Begin a Freelance Career?

by Sylvia Burleigh in Business Tips

If you search the Internet about freelancing, you’ll come upon a litany of advice about how to make that leap from 9-to-5 employee to freelance guru. But the reality is freelancing is not just about enjoying flexibility or having the autonomy to invest your time and talent in projects of your choice. You’re actually contemplating becoming your own boss.

To some people that’s a pretty scary reality. As a freelancer, you’re suddenly responsible for obtaining health insurance, acquiring clients, a business plan, marketing strategy, taxes, public relations, and so much more. If I’m scaring you, it may be a good thing.

In this economy, the timing is just as important as the execution when it comes to starting your freelance journey. Knowing when the time is right is not something that anyone can teach you, but if you have these basic common-sense criteria down then maybe your time is now.

You’ve Stashed Away Some Cash

My personal recommendation, after weathering the dot-com bubble and downturns in IT, bulk up your savings to carry you for at least six months. This may sound too logical for some, while others are probably shaking their heads saying “I know this one already.” But I’m always surprised that many people don’t realize that everyone, even non-freelancers, should have a nest egg. Inevitably, there will be downturns in the economy or in your chosen industry. To remain as risk adverse as possible, stash some cash, or at least half your yearly salary into an account for immediate access in case of an emergency.

You Have Clients

This is a sure sign that you can resign from your current position and begin your full-time freelance business. It’s also the right time to create a referral plan which will allow you to market your freelance skills behind the scenes, while your busy meeting deadlines. For other suggestions about marketing your skills on the down low, check out my post Subtle Marketing Methods for Introverts who want to be Freelancers.

If you’re truly a savvy freelancer, you’ll also know how important it is to continue your marketing efforts locally. If you’re looking for other avenues to more clients include the local business community. Join the local chamber of commerce and attend local networking events whenever possible. Get your freelance business name out there and let other businesses know what you can do to help them grow.

Your Financial Plan is Solid

By plans, I mean bona fide strategies on how you plan to market yourself, and sell your skills to clients as well as budget your money. Another consideration is health insurance. Even young and healthy people get sick. Recently a good friend of mine, fresh out of graduate school, was taken to the emergency room for an appendectomy. Not only was he straddled with school bills but he’s currently working with the hospital on a payment plan for the surgery. You never know when the unexpected will hit, so just plan and prepare for it.

You’re an Authority in your Industry

If you blog, write articles, stay current on trends and have joined communities with other like-minded individuals within your industry, you’ve set the stage for marketing yourself as a credible small business. If you’re comfortable talking about yourself, than you know the best pitch is one that seriously sells you as the CEO of your own freelance business. There is no better way to approach potential clients, who also happen to be business owners, than by becoming one. Learn their lingo; understand the trends in their industry and what keeps them up at night.

Your Starting to Think about Taking your Freelance Business LLC

Even as a business of one, setting up an LLC or other business entity means you have legitimized yourself as well. At this point you have a business bank account and an advisor to explain tax-deductible business expenses. You have a thorough understanding of billing and invoicing, and how both work within your payment system. You’re also not shy about making calls to clients regarding late payments when it has to be done.

Any of the above points sound familiar? If they do, then you may be closer to freelance freedom than you might think. Taking those side projects, moonlighting or freelance gigs to the next level can be a daunting experience, but with patience, hard work and talent you can give a final wave good-by to the 9-to-5 once and for all.  

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