You’ve been willing to start full-time freelancing for some time but it never feels like the right time? Do you feel like you’re lacking knowledge and practice? Either you have already started freelancing part-time or not just yet, here are 7 steps to start freelancing full-time!
If you’ve decided to take the leap and make your dreams happen, you definitely have way more questions than answers on how to start freelancing full-time.
I mean… Get all the money you need. Have a constant flow of clients. And no worries beyond those that include way too many clients in your waiting list…
The most important thing in the process of transition is to take the first step. And that’s exactly why I’m here. To help you see beyond your fear of what if… and just make it happen!
Let’s start, shall we?
You might have an idea to start freelancing…
Or maybe you’ve done it on a side for a while…
No matter what is your situation, anybody CAN start freelancing full-time! And there’s no magic behind it. Just some clear, actionable steps to take.
First of all, remember that no freelancers get tons of work right away UNLESS they have established a client base. Therefore, don’t expect to start freelancing and just have a flow of clients. That happens only in 21st-century fairytales.
That’s why it’s important to start out slow and, first, give it a go as your side-hustle. Here are some things to keep in mind before starting a side-hustle.
How to start freelancing full-time?!
STEP #1: Make sure you have the money
Save some money
No surprises here. You should get some savings and by “savings” I don’t even mean plenty of money. All you need is some safety money.
The meaning of safety is very different for many of us. For me, this amount is equal to three-month living without any doubts about income. So even if some horrifying-lack-of-job period visits my schedule, I’ll be fine.
While 3 months seem like a safe option. In reality, I have also managed to survive with months’ worth of savings. So it’s up to you to define how thick your wallet has to be before you start freelancing full-time.
Choose a specific niche to work in
Being a niche freelancer is always a good idea.
I started freelancing back in 2015 and did pretty much everything. Social media graphics, websites, advertisements, magazines, branding… It sounds like chaos even as I write it!
Once I started focusing, my clients were more satisfied, I got more referrals and it was easier to market myself.A
After all, we know the good old saying “Jack of all trades, master of none…”
You don’t have to know your niche right away. But the sooner you figure it out, the better.
Here are some ideas on how to find the best freelance niche:
- What do you have the most experience in? If you’re a website designer, it’s already a bit of a niche! But what if most of your clients have been food bloggers or fitness instructors? That’s even better! You have a clear target audience right there.
- What do you enjoy doing the most? I had a lot of experience with layout design but I hate the hell out of it… So, eventually, I rebranded to work with website designs and online courses instead!
- What do your clients want? If you already have an established client base, listen to their needs and discover what the market wants!
Establish passive income
This is crucial! Prepare some passive income streams before you start freelancing full-time.
Along with freelancing, I started getting into online courses and affiliate marketing. It took me a good while to establish consistent passive income but it’s always worth it! You can also look into creating your own online course.
The reality of freelancing can be harsh, especially, when starting out. While one month your schedule might be full, the other one you might have to struggle a bit more. And it’s alright! (If you’re prepared some passive income sources…)
But.. what else besides money is important to be kept in mind when leaving your office job and start full-time freelancing?
STEP #2: Plan & organize
Create your own productivity rituals
The ability to schedule your own way to success is truly important in freelancing.
Make sure you have a schedule to hold on to and your freelancing doesn’t turn into an extended vacation instead…
Research productivity tools you might find helpful and make sure to organize your projects in a way that saves your time.
Learn to be organized
So far you had your boss who told how things need to be done, but now it’s on your own.
How you will handle your clients, how you will manage your service offers, invoices, payments, schedules and… well… everything. Find what works best for you!
For me, this has been the biggest challenge! Even after 5 years of active freelancing, I still struggle with streamlining my business. However, as soon as I find a method that actually works, it saves my time and sanity big time!
You can read about some more apps I like to use for the organization.
Don’t forget your wellbeing!
Many freelancers turn into workaholics quite fast. I mean, doing what you love is rewarding and it can truly be addictive.
However, your wellbeing and health now are more important than ever. If you get sick, you might not be able to take a day off anymore! Therefore, it’s important to create routines and habits that support a healthy lifestyle in the first place.
Make sure to also read these Tips to stay healthy while working from home!
There are also some apps that will help you to stay in charge of your downtime:
- Inboxpause. It will stop your e-mails from coming in. Do you have an urge to check your mail all the time? Put this on and there will be nothing to see.
- Forest will motivate you to leave your phone alone.
Improve your project management skills
Coming up with a project management system that works for you is very crucial before getting into freelancing. Even if it’s just one project you’re starting with, it’s important to establish the basics.
Once you’ll get other projects pouring in, you won’t have much time to think about organizing and managing.
Try out different project management systems, for example, Trello or Asana. Give a go-to Google Calendars or check out other options that you might prefer. All of these take a bit of time to adjust so use the time while you have it.
STEP #3: Establish a portfolio
Before you start freelancing full-time, you will need to establish your own portfolio.
This means having a showcase of the work you have done before.
There are several options how you can approach this step:
- If you have relevant work experience (for example, in your 9-to-5), you can use client work samples from your old workplace. With the relevant permission from your bosses or clients, of course!
- If you have no work experience, practice new skills and use the samples as a part of your portfolio! For example, if you were a magazine designer but now want to get into website designs, use the designs created in your learning process. Yes, all your portfolio pieces don’t have to be real or active projects, they just have to showcase your skills and creativity.
- Offering your work for a reduced price is also an option but it can get tricky (see Step #6!). If you have any friends who might appreciate your help or somebody you could cooperate with, use this option to build your portfolio!
You can get more tips and ideas in this free course: Going Freelance: Building and Branding Your Own Success.
STEP #4: Create your own website and write a blog
One of the most effective ways to earn new clients online is to promote your knowledge through blogging!
There are two ways to go. Either build a website on platforms like Squarespace or Wix or choose a self-hosted WordPress website.
I suggest having a self-hosted WordPress website. Yes, it might take a bit more time to get it started but it is the best long-term option and will give you a great chance to not only create a blog but also monetize it in no time (passive income!)
Here’s how to create your own WordPress website (if website design isn’t your field of freelancing…):
- Choose a good hosting. I suggest using Siteground. They have amazing support for starters and their prices are very budget-friendly. Having a trustful hosting is crucial for any WordPress website! Slow and unreliable hostings can limit your website’s usability big time.
- Purchase a domain. You can do it directly with the hosting or use a separate platform. If you’re just starting out, purchasing a domain along with the hosting will be easier.
- Install WordPress. Most hostings offer one-click WordPress install. Yes, you literally just do one click and you’ll be redirected to your new WordPress website.
- Choose a WordPress theme or page builder. I’d suggest starting with one of the free WordPress themes so you understand how the platform works. From there on, you can either purchase a premium theme or use a page builder.
- Set up and design the theme. This is the part that will, most likely, take the most of your time. However, setting up and designing your own website can be a lot of fun! Give yourself some time and explore the options before setting it all up.
- Start creating the content!
STEP #5: Learn to market yourself
Getting out there and sharing a word about your skills and experiences is MADLY HARD. But it’s also impossible to start freelancing full-time unless you do it.
Even for me, an extravert who loves social media, promoting myself has been one of the biggest issues in my freelance career.
I usually do a quiet whisper of “hey, you might find my skills useful… you know… maybe… I don’t know… take a look at my website?” and if there is no response, I just disappear with no trace…
By now, I know better. You need to be persistent! You HAVE TO know how to market yourself and DO IT!
Get on relevant social media
You don’t have to do it all. There’s no need to spend most of your day’s time on social media which can easily turn into a huge time sucker.
However, if you find social media that you enjoy and that has your audience on it, invest your time and creativity to be there.
Find a platform where you can connect with people in a way that works for you!
Do you like making videos? Try Youtube! Do you prefer photos or short daily insights? Go for Instagram! Would you like live interaction? Facebook! Are you a writer kind? Twitter! There is no one right answer.
Don’t be shy about it
To this day, when somebody asks me what I do, I stick with a simple “I’m a graphic designer” and then, most likely, leave the room.
Imagine, how much more work I might have if I’d actually SPEAK ABOUT IT?! It’s ridiculous.
Recently, I have tried sharing some follow-up info after introducing myself in any new company and people are truly interested. Almost everyone has said they’ll save my info and reach out if they’d need any of my services.
There’s no better way to promote yourself than direct marketing and actually being proud of what you do!
You can get more tips and ideas in the free course: Going Freelance: Building and Branding Your Own Success.
STEP #6: Value yourself right
Value your time, skills and experience.
There is NO USE in working for free or offering incredibly low rates.
Oh, I know what you’re thinking!
Some money is better than no money…
This will help me to build a portfolio…
If you want to build a portfolio, create projects for YOURSELF. What about setting up a new website for your business? How about rebranding your social media? Instead of one banner create five. Choose the best one and put the last four on your portfolio.
With bigger rates, you will take more time to find projects. But once you do – you will also earn back money for all the time spent!
I know, I know… It’s madly hard to wrap your mind around this when you’re just starting. I didn’t want to do that! I was actually working for $5/hr creating quotes when I just got started. Now, my rate is $45/hr and I still feel like I undervalue myself!
YOUR SKILLS ARE VALUABLE! Value them accordingly.
And the more you learn, the more experience you get, the better you get, the more value it adds.
When you start freelancing full-time it will, of course, take more time and will be a bit more nerve-wracking to find new clients. But stick to your guns and you will get there!
Freelancing, just like any other way to earn income, requires a lot of work and time. However, it’s also madly satisfying to do what you truly love, choose your own clients and actually enjoy waking up on a Monday.
It’s never easy! But then again… what is?!
Are you ready to start freelancing full-time? Or do you still have some doubts? Share them in the comments!