It’s now a year since I decided to go freelance, and it’s been the most liberating, empowering thing I’ve ever done. I’ve no regrets.
Along the way, I’ve made lots of new friends and developed confidence levels I never thought possible.
To anyone thinking of making the same leap, I say: do it. If you have the skills and are prepared to network (not to be mistaken for selling), then rest-assured business will come your way.
Based on what I’ve learnt, here are a few things to think about if you’re hovering over making the life-changing decision to work for yourself.
1. Leaving a well-paid job that is making you unhappy shouldn’t be seen as taking an earnings hit; it’s an investment in your future. You got a well-paid job because you’re good at what you do, so you'll be amazing at working for yourself.
2. If initially, you don’t have enough clients to cover your bills, get part-time work or sub-contract to someone in order to give you a few spare days a week to develop the business. The need to get your income back up to previous levels is an amazing motivator.
3. Do what you know. You might be unhappy working in a certain sector but if it’s where your skills are, use them as this is easier than trying to earn and learn at the same time. Besides, you’re likely to find that having the autonomy to work the hours you please or removing yourself from a life-sapping management structure will work wonders for happiness levels.
4. Join a networking group and read business start-up books. Even if this doesn’t initially result in work, you will be surrounded by people who have been working for themselves for years and this will inspire you to carry on during hard times.
5. Focus on relationships rather than selling. The chances are the people you meet whilst networking won’t be in the market for your products or services at that point in time. So don’t push your wares on them. Instead, work on developing the relationship and try to refer business to them. You will be rewarded.
6. Specialise. If you have knowledge of a certain industry, work on building your profile in this sector. Take out adverts in trade journals and write non-sales-related articles to build your profile amongst this target audience.
7. Don’t feel guilty about finishing early some days. Spend the time with people you love or doing things you enjoy. There will be plenty of days when you’re at your desk at 6am or working till 11pm. Now you’re self-employed, you clock on and off when you need to.
8. Get some business cards and compliments slips, develop a website (mine’s a Jimdo site - it costs me £60 a year and I get an email domain with that). Be sociable on social media - tweet and post on LinkedIn and share others’ posts.
9. Be strong. Don’t get sucked into work you don’t want to do. When you start out, it’s easy to be drawn into doing anything a client asks. Whilst it’s absolutely vital that you do your best for clients and work hard to help them meet objectives, it’s more important to take an umbrella view of your business and keep in mind what you want to achieve. Don’t let one client dominate to the detriment of others or push you off course.
10. Create a terms-of-business document and share this with clients at the outset of commencing work. No one will be put off because of such a document and it will show that you are serious about what you do.
11. Don’t be afraid to talk money. Be clear about your rates and don’t be afraid to politely chase if you suspect a payment might be late. Don’t let arrears mount up. This works both ways. Pay your bills within payment terms. It’s the right thing to do and fosters goodwill, which will lead to referrals.
There’s nothing really new in the above. The main point is to have self-belief and simply go for it. Pursue your passion and in a year’s time, you’ll be wondering why you didn’t do it years ago.
If you've gone freelance and have other tips you'd like to share, I'd love to hear them.