When starting my career as a designer, I never dreamed I would end up actually running my own business. Quite content in my full-time job at a web design company, I enjoyed the work, had a great relationship with my colleagues and felt fulfilled.
However, things soon took a downward dive ? the company went public just before the dot-com bubble burst and the liquidators came in. Stripped from my comfort zone of a regular paycheck, I found myself with the responsibility to find my own clients as a freelancer. It was a whole new world, and one where I had to adapt quickly. Where could I find new clients? How could I show them I was worth their investment? I was a designer after all, not a salesperson.
As with many things in life, excuses can always be found to avoid the great unknown, but if you really feel that freelancing is the right choice for you initially, take the leap and just do it.
Dispelling the myths
Before you sign your resignation letter, it’s important to consider a few things first. People think that with freelancing comes more flexibility, more autonomy and more money. But, this isn’t necessarily true:
Money: When you’re working you aren’t always earning. Part of your time will be spent on paid projects and you’ll need to dedicate the rest to networking, meeting potential clients or establishing the scope of a project.
Flexibility: You won’t be able to take a proper holiday as clients might need something and you should try to be available within reason. This is where it’s important to practice setting boundaries between your work and personal life.
Autonomy: Once you establish yourself as a freelancer you’ll enjoy more autonomy as you will set the direction your business takes. However, you should always carefully consider decisions and how they can affect your clients, suppliers or employees.
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Still interested? Here are five signs you’re ready to go for it.
1. You are willing to hustle.
When I started working freelance, I quickly realized that sitting around waiting for my friends to send me some work or projects wasn’t going to put me on par with my old salary. The solution came in the form of business networking. I attended events and made many new contacts and friends, following up diligently and being as helpful as I could. As time went by, people remembered me and got in touch, which quickly translated into new projects.
2. You have two to three months of living expenses saved up.
Having the desire to make money is a good thing — you need that hunger and terror to keep you going, but you also need to be sensible. In my experience, the lead time on a sale is always frustratingly longer than I hope. I have had projects come from people I met years ago — so if you’re starting new, you need to give it time and make sure you have enough savings to survive.
3. You have strong a portfolio of at least five projects.
If you’re already doing freelance work on the side, you may find that the jobs you’ve had so far have come pretty easily through existing connections. If you’re going to take the leap, you will have to make a little more effort.
While building a good network is very important, to really stand out, you will need to create an easy way to show people your work — an online portfolio for example.
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4. You’re not afraid to charge for your work.
If you’re still doing some freelance jobs for free and struggling to feel confident enough to ask for payment then perhaps you can start practicing the language needed to be straight with people.
If you get clients saying, “Can you just knock this up for me?” or, “It shouldn’t take you long,” then you should show that you are enthusiastic about the project, but make sure you establish clear payment terms beforehand. Be proactive and tell clients that you’ll “work out a quote” or “confirm payment terms via email.”
This gives a clear message it’s not going to be free. You should figure out a good way to calculate your rate and always expect to be paid for your work.
5. You hate your job so much it’s affecting your mood and health.
Why would you want to spend the majority of your waking hours hurting your life? Sometimes, the act of preparing for your new freelance career gives you focus and purpose and can lift your mood. So, make your plan, learn what you have to learn and start building your network.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors