7 Things You Should Do Before Becoming A Freelancer
This post is part of the Professional Independence Project series.
Jumping from a corporate environment to becoming a freelancer isn’t easy, but it can be quite rewarding. You will lose a lot of the benefits that you have enjoyed with a company, but you will have a lot more flexibility and you should generally be a lot more satisfied, as you’re the driver of your own bus.
Related: How To Find Clients As A Freelancer
The ride can be pretty bumpy, however, so you really need to consider a number of things before you take the plunge. The main things you should consider are:
1. Plan For Your Transition
Unless you’re terminated by a reduction in force or due to other circumstances, and caught having to freelance just to survive, you should adequately prepare for it. Ensure that not only have a sufficient nest egg to weather the storm, but that your family is onboard and supports your move. Without either, you will be faced with multiple challenges and you will not enjoy your position.
Develop “I am a salesperson” mentality. The product you will be selling is you.
You should also begin to network as much as possible. This will ensure that you have individuals you can call on as potential customers or referral partners when you begin your new journey. You don’t have to tell people exactly what you plan on doing, so as not to jeopardize your current position, but explain to them that you’re trying to ensure that you know a sufficient number of people, as in this job environment no one is sure of their future and you want to cover your bases.
Establish a true RELATIONSHIP with people and don’t be a business card collector extraordinaire. There’s power in the quality, not in the quantity of people you know. Do this months in advance and continue to nurture your network, so that when you cut the cord, you’ll be able to quickly connect.
Also, volunteer your time and try to align what you’re doing as a volunteer with your future vocation as a freelancer. This will give you some outside experience that can be added to your LinkedIn Profile, will help your credibility, and it will provide you with some more great connections.
Finally, develop “I am a salesperson” mindset and persona. The product you will be selling is you. Practice “selling” yourself with family and friends and solicit their feedback once you’ve decided on your focus, as talked about below.
2. Ensure That You Have Specialized, Marketable Skills
It is extremely important that you have clearly specialized and marketable skills. What will differentiate you from everyone else out there who is competing against you? There is an abundant supply of freelancers throughout the world who anyone can now tap into by using such sites as oDesk, Elance, and Fiverr. How are you going to compete, so that you’re whole business is based only on price? You should really check out these sites not only for competitive purposes, but also to see if there might be some potential opportunities for you, as well.
3. Line Up Assignments
Your transition will be a lot easier if you’re able to provide services to your former company or have others already lined up to do work for before making the plunge. I have found that those who have been most successful initially are those who already have this work in place or can quickly obtain clients.
Please note that these assignments might not align perfectly with what you want to do eventually, but they will provide you with the startup capital and cash flow that will allow you to get established and to finally position yourself in what you’ve decided to focus on.
It’s imperative that you focus and not try to think too big as you get started. What will be your goals and objectives? Where do you want to be three months from the start, six months, one year, and so on? Write them down!
Define who your target customer is going to be and how you’re going to market and sell to them. Where are you going to go fishing for leads? It can become an extremely time consuming and expensive proposition going to networking meetings and coming up empty handed with nothing to show after many months of so doing. You need to calculate what your time is worth and how much each meeting is costing and determine if it is a fit within a short period of time. Although you might meet a number of individuals who appear to be prospects and/or referral partners, nothing might ever develop, so it is probably best to move on. Make sure that this is going to be part of your game plan.
5. Brand Yourself
Once you’ve decided what you’re going to focus on start building your brand. Start to think about your logo, business cards, website, and social media activities. Once you’ve clearly defined what it is you’re going to be on the “other side,” move forward on developing these materials and positioning yourself as soon as possible.
6. Stay Motivated And Positive
Freelancing can be a roller coaster ride with many ups and downs. You need to make sure that you’re an optimist and have the personality that will allow you to stay positive and motivated. So much of it is really a mental game and those who are mentally prepared seem to flourish much more readily.
7. Be Prepared To Pivot/Embrace Change
What you’ve chosen to do as a freelancer might not always be in demand. Some bright, shiny new object might appear that could make your skills obsolete. You need to be continually looking out for emerging trends and making the necessary adjustments that will enable you to compete and prosper in a new environment. Be prepared to pivot and jump into something else if it doesn’t appear that there’s any future for what you’re doing. You’ll need to learn to embrace change and take advantage of the opportunities that it creates. You’ll need to try to catch that next wave that you can ride for multiple years, so that you’re not constantly having to reinvent yourself.
Here’s to your future journey in what can be a wild, yet incredibly rewarding new world!
Want to take control of your career?
If you want to take control of your career, check out our fall series, the Professional Independence Project. Throughout the month of October, we will be sharing expert advice and insight on how you can build a successful career you love.
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