There’s a generation-changing trend coming down the pike. They call it the “gig economy.” In the gig economy, people no longer work for a single employer. Rather, increasing numbers of people work from home offices and coffee shops for themselves, with a number of different clients hiring them for their skill set.
The gig economy has a number of advantages and disadvantages for former employees. On the one hand, who hasn’t dreamed about working from home in their pajamas, rather than fighting traffic in the rat race? On the other hand, there’s something to be said for employer subsidized health care and not paying your own payroll tax.
Still, many people consider the trade-off to be worth it. If you want to quit the rat race and strike out on your own, we recommend the following process.
What’s Your Niche?
To freelance, you need some kind of niche, or at least a marketable skill. Graphic designers, draftsmen and even personal assistants will find it easy to pick up clients. Other trades, such as teaching or cooking, can be a little harder. Still, other jobs, such as waiting tables or sales, can be very difficult, if not impossible to do on a freelance basis. However, the main advice in this regard is to pick something that you love, as well as something that you are very good at. This way you bring both your passion and your skill set to everything that you do.
It’s rare that someone is able to go from being a full-time employee to a full-time freelancer overnight. While it might be difficult, you need to make time for your new endeavor in your life. This means you will be working many long hours as you try and get your freelancing business off the ground. Still, this time spent will pay dividends as satisfied clients request more work and refer their friends to you. As time goes on, you might find that you will be able to decrease your workload at your regular job while you prepare to make the final leap into freelance bliss. Decide how much of your time budget can be allocated to freelancing, then hold yourself to it.
As you transition, you will find that more and more clients will come in. As stated above, you might have to start working less at your “regular” job. One important thing to remember is that freelancing can be very up and down. To that end, you’ll need to have a lot of money in your savings account before you can take the final leap off the cliff into the world of freelancing. Try to have about six months worth of living expenses saved up and be mercilessly conservative about dipping into this supply. Eventually, you can ease up, but as your first start freelancing full time, leave it alone.
Many people are surprised to hear that you get clients in much the same way that you get jobs. Job boards and classified ads often have people looking for both long- and short-term freelancers. Your friends and professional contacts will know people who are looking for people to fill gigs in your field. Don’t underestimate the power of audacity, either. Many freelancers got their best gigs merely by showing up on someone’s doorstep and asking if they had any work that needed doing. Of course, you should also do a bit of marketing and advertising. Fliers, newspaper and classified ads and even simple, but professional-looking business cards can go a long way toward making you seem more like a pro — and looking like a pro is about 90 percent of the game. An online portfolio can showcase past accomplishments in an attractive package that shows you can get the job done.
A Word on Taxes
Remember that you’ll now be paying your own taxes. This means you have to withhold taxes from yourself. Every check that you get isn’t all yours. Just like in the working world, you’re going to lose about a third of your earnings to Uncle Sam. Open a separate account, throw your tax money in it and forget that it exists. Otherwise, April is going to be very, very unpleasant.
Set Yourself Free
Getting free from the workaday world is one of the most liberating things a person can experience. No longer do you have someone telling you when and how to work. You’re your own boss, setting your own hours and getting things done in your own way. Once you get going freelancing, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
“How to Start Freelancing Full-Time” was written by Nicholas Pell.