How to Change Jobs and Survive: The Thoughts of a Freelancer

Moving from full-time employment to self-employment isn’t easy. It takes a certain type of person with a certain set of skills to be able to pull it off, and that’s partly because there are so many different elements to running your own business.

Before you even think about going freelance, you’ll have to make an honest assessment of your own abilities. For example, you might be the best in the world at what you do, but if you can’t balance the books and manage your finances then you’re in for a lot of trouble.

Likewise, freelancers need to register for taxation and provide up-to-date records so that the taxman doesn’t come knocking. They also need to build a portfolio, maintain a web presence, liase with clients and suppliers and do all of the bits and bobs that come with running yourself as a business.


1.   Get Help

That’s why my first tip is to get some help. If you know that you’re bad at something, you’ll want to find someone else who can help you, for instance Assignment Masters service is a great option. For my part, I don’t know much about taxation, insurance and the other fundamentals of running a business, although I’m well organised and a quick learner.

So I made it a priority to find a financial advisor who could take me through the basics of cash flow management, invoicing and taxpaying, and to help me to carry my pension over. By subcontracting that element of the business, it freed up more of my time to do the stuff that makes the money.

I’m lucky because as well as being able to write, I have some basic skills in web development and graphic design. Not a huge amount, perhaps, but enough to pull together a portfolio and a website that reflects the work I do – and the way that I can help people. If marketing isn’t your forte, don’t skimp on costs – find someone else who can help you.


2.  Use Freelancing Sites

Finding suppliers can be as difficult as finding work in the first place, which is why it’s a good idea to sign up to specialist freelancing websites like Upwork, PeoplePerHour and Guru. You can use the same sites to find both new clients and new suppliers.

Some people look down on freelancing sites because they take a commission out of your earnings. While that’s true, they also help to match buyers with sellers and to get newbie freelancers into the market.

I’ve had particular success with both Upwork and PeoplePerHour, but there are plenty of other sites out there. At the very least, it’s a good idea to sign up and to create a profile – after all, even without any activity on your end, potential clients can still discover your portfolio and get in touch with you.


3.  Demand What You’re Worth

One of the biggest problems with freelancing sites is that there’s plenty of competition for every job, and it can be tempting to lower your rates to take on new business. Don’t do it. Unless you’re desperate for revenue, that’s a poor move when it comes to long-term sustainability.

Some unscrupulous clients offer rates that are so low that they wouldn’t pass minimum wage laws, so be sure to stay clear of those. You need to be honest with yourself when it comes to how long something will take, because if you underbid then you’ll end up doing work that isn’t profitable. It’s better to bid high and not get the work than to bid low and to make a loss on it.

It’s also important to know exactly how much your time is worth. Figure out the lowest rate that you could possibly earn to cover your costs, and never take on work that pays less than that. It’s a good idea to set your base rate at around 30% higher than your lowest rate because that gives you some wiggle room if clients want to negotiate.


4.  Start By Moonlighting

Moonlighting is the term that’s used when a freelancer starts out by working in the evenings and over the weekends while still working their ‘day job’. Doing this will enable you to save up some money in advance and to slowly take on new clients, rather than agreeing to work with everyone just so that your rent is covered.

One of the reasons why moonlighting is so popular is that it allows you to dip your toe into the water and to get a sense of what freelancing is really like. It’s hard to tell whether you like something without going out and trying it, and moonlighting allows you to do that without sacrificing the security of your existing job.

Remember, though, that moonlighting isn’t a long-term solution. It’s a great way to build up your client base while picking up extra experience, but it also takes its toll on your social life and your sanity. That brings me on to my final tip.


5.  Beware Of Burnout

No matter what happens, your highest priority should be to take care of yourself. After all, once you’re freelancing full-time, you won’t be able to take a sick day without losing money. The last thing you want to do is to make yourself sick by failing to take time off to enjoy life.

Burnout is a particular risk if you’re moonlighting because you’ll effectively be working two jobs at the same time. Eventually you’ll have so much to do that it feels like you’re going to work, coming home, working again, sleeping and then repeating. Unfortunately, that’s often a necessity, at least in the early days.

Ultimately, going freelance is hugely rewarding, but it’s not worth sacrificing your health for. If you have adverse reactions to stress or long hours, for example, then it may be better to remain where you are. At the very least, you’ll need to listen to your body along the way. If it tells you it’s time to stop, it’s time to stop.


A Calculated Risk

Freelancing is great, but it’s not for everybody. Before you plough ahead with it, you’ll want to take the time to make a plan and to list everything that could possibly go wrong. Then you can create a contingency plan to deal with every item on the list.

Like anything in business, going freelance is a risk. The trick is to make sure that the reward is worth the risk, and to do everything you can to reduce the odds of failure. Hopefully the tips that I shared will help you to do just that.

Good luck.


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