I’m not going to make any bones about it. Starting a freelance business, especially full-time, is a BIG DEAL. You’re essentially starting a business of one. This post is dedicated to the steps you should take as you are preparing to launch your freelance business.
In my case, when I started 15 years ago, I had a stay-at-home wife and four young children all under the age of seven. I was the sole income provider and 100% responsible for the income, insurance, retirement, mortgage, savings… you get the picture.
That’s a lot of responsibility, but here’s the thing: I had a plan. And that plan has served me well, even 15 years later.
Of course, there were sacrifices along the way, but for me, being a freelancer meant having the life that we wanted and while creating a pathway to the future. Because of freelancing, I’ve been accessible to my kids and family, had some amazing vacations and spent my time on my own terms.
As I began freelancing. 15 years ago, I had spent 7-8 years working in corporate America for businesses of all sizes, from mom and pops to a Fortune 500 company. During this time, I working on refining my craft. This leads me to the first thing I recommend doing before going solo.
Scroll to read more or watch my training on preparing to launch your freelance business here.
Refine Your Craft and Learn the Business
If you’re thinking about freelancing, the first thing I encourage is to learn as much about your craft as you can. Not just the technical details! Find out why businesses hire skillsets like yours. What problems are they trying to solve?
When you’re a business owner, you aren’t just the person who does “the thing” (whatever that is). Instead, you have to be the person who finds clients, who does the marketing, who keeps track of the books, who provides the customer service, etc.
Learn from whatever job you’re doing now, even if it has nothing to do with your craft.
For example, when I was in high school, I was bagging groceries at a grocery store earning minimum wage. But this job helped shape me into the freelancer I am today! There I learned about customer service skills along with discipline – two crucial soft skills for business.
Build a Client List
If you’re like I was, you’re working a corporate job but doing freelance work on the side. Before I had kids, I had the time to do a lot of night and weekend projects. This allowed me the time to really build my client base. Some of the clients I worked for during this time are still with me today!
Determine if You’re Self Motivated
Before I started freelancing full time, I needed to know that I had the ability to work independently.
When I was at my corporate job, I had a great opportunity to telecommute part-time. This was such a confidence builder for me. I was able to get paid as I tested the waters to see if I could work on my own without a boss looking over my shoulder. Eventually, I was even able to transfer out of the office and go remote full time with that company.
Of course, many have had the opportunity to work remotely for a stretch of time during the pandemic. Maybe this is even how you realize you wanted to work for yourself or at home full time! Were you productive on your own?
Desirable Traits for Freelancers
When you start your business, it’s important to minimize the risks and be prepared. Recognizing your own work habits and mindsets can help you determine if freelancing full-time is right for you.
Here’s a checklist to see if you have some of the baseline characteristics that are required to be a successful freelancer.
✔ Can you work independently?
You need to be able to motivate yourself to get work done. The great thing about freelancing is we can work whenever we want, but we have to get work done. Diligence is key.
✔ Do you see yourself as an entrepreneur, or a worker bee?
Seeing yourself as a business owner and taking responsibility for your business is important. Even if you don’t know how to run a business, you have to want to learn.
✔ Do you have the ability to work with people?
If you like talking to people and helping them, you’re halfway to becoming a successful freelancer. You have to be willing to engage with business owners who need the services you have to offer. You also have to be willing to negotiate and communicate the value of the service that you provide.
Customer service is crucial. You need to be able to provide great service to clients.
✔ Are you a problem solver?
When I ask this, I don’t just mean your customer’s problems, but your own business problems. Do you like figuring things out?
When I started out, there were a lot of things that I didn’t know. I don’t have a business or marketing degree. But through trial and errror I learned the skills needed to run a business.
That’s why I started my freelance business coaching group – so I can help freelancers get past some of these obstacles that were big mountains for me when I was getting started. At the time I didn’t know anyone who knew a way around them or through them, so now I help pave the way for others.
✔ Are you resourceful?
As a business owner, you have to know where to go or who to ask when you need help. You also will be well-served to be the type who doesn’t mind asking for help when you don’t know something! Trust me – this can set you back years if you are determined to do everything without help. Get help here!
How to Prepare Financially Before Freelancing Full-Time
As I was getting started as a young freelancer, I was working in corporate America and working a pretty good job. I had a salary that was paying me benefits and retirement, and it was a pretty good check every two weeks.
I realized that if we were going to maintain our standard of living, I needed to either match or increase my salary depending on the type of insurance we could get and retirement, etc.
Take a Hard Look at Expenses
As I transitioned to freelancing, we cut out a lot of extraneous expenses. We still took vacations and had entertainment, but we really stuck to a budget rather than spending willy-nilly. We tried to be as frugal as much as we could and save as much as we could.
The less you can get by on, the better. Why? Because the less money that you need to live on, then that means the less money you need to make as a freelancer. This will reduce the stress on you to need to make a big profit right away.
Start Saving Before You Go Full-Time Freelance
Before you’ve launched into your freelance career full time you need to start saving. You should plan to save enough to cover 3 months of expenses, minimum! Six months is ideal. I highly recommend that you stash your side-hustle money into a fund that will help pay you as you get started.
When I launched full-time, I had four months of income in the bank. That meant that my family and I were going to be taken care of for four months while I got my business going. Then, I began to work like a dog. I had to build clients, serve them well and start getting the cash flowing.
Cashflow is king! When you’re a freelancer, you need to have money coming in so that you can pay those bills month after month; but it’s nice to have a little bit of a runway to alleviate the pressure as you build your business.
Have a Fallback Plan
Even the best laid plans can go awry, so having a backup plan is a good idea. It can bring you comfort and give you an answer to that niggling voice in your head (hello, imposter syndrome!) that says, “What if you fail?”
Having that answer worked out in advance will allow you the ability to focus on your business with confidence, rather than the fear of failure.
Is the worst case scenario that you get a temporary part-time job? Do you quit freelancing and go back to a nine to five? Do you find another job?
The answers vary from person to person, but you have to have peace with the answer before you start freelancing full time.
If you ask the people that are in my freelance coaching group, they will tell you it takes time to build a business. But you don’t have to do it alone and you can minimize the risks by planning in advance and asking for help.
Be motivated and look for ways to serve your people. Work hard, and find a group that you can go to for help. Each week when I meet with my coaching students I offer help with the rocks that are in front of them and help them grow their businesses. Week by week.
Millions and millions and millions are making freelancing work for them. It’s a great way to live and work, allowing more control over your time and earnings. And it’s a lifestyle I love, as it’s allowed me quality time with family, time I could never get back once spent!
Whatever your reason is, be motivated and look for ways that you can serve your people. Because at the end of the day, if you are service-minded, and give value to the customers that you serve, you will always have work to do.
Freelancing will be exciting; it has been a blast these past 15 years as I have been growing my business, serving clients I value and now mentoring other freelancers to do the same.
Want more information on the systems needed as you start your freelance business? Click here for a free blueprint outlining exactly what you need to get started!