08.15.12

ADVICE / 29

we love this question….”how do you know if you’re ready to go freelance?”

KATIE’S ANSWER:

i ask myself this question all the time. i recently found myself in a situation where i wanted a career change. i wanted to try something different. i considered the freelance world for a while, but i just didn’t think i was ready yet. a big part was not being able to reply on that paycheck every two weeks. my wedding is in less than three months and i need those funds to keep flowing in. another thing that kept me from making that leap was that i still have a lot to learn. i thrive when i’m working on a team and in this career change i wanted to learn something new. i was previously a print and product graphic designer and now i’m in web design. total opposite worlds and i couldn’t be more excited for this new adventure. maybe when i’m ready for another change i’ll be ready.

everyone has different reasons for going or not going freelance. there is no right or wrong. it’s whatever makes sense for you. and! if you do go freelance and it doesn’t work you could always go back to full time. and! depending on your situation, you might be able to swing part time at your current gig and freelance the other half. that would be a nice transition into full time freelance.

BRI’S ANSWER:
ready? not sure anyone is ever really ready. you just have to make yourself ready i suppose. i had thought about going freelance for years before i actually decided to make it happen. there are a few things i wanted to be sure about…

1. savings. this was my biggest scare. i had nightmares that all the job inquiries would stop at once and that my old job wouldn’t hire me back…so i was working a full-time job, designing rue magazine and taking design clients at the same time so that i could build up my savings. this meant having very little social life. i went a little overboard probably, but i saved 6 months worth of living expenses just in case everything went wrong. hey, i’m cautious. i added up all my expenses (rent, food, gas, entertainment, utilities etc) and then doubled that number for taxes and to pad it some. you never know what expenses might come out of nowhere on any given month.

2. steady client inquiries. i think it is important to be in a place where people are inquiring about your services on a pretty regular basis before going freelance. at that time i was getting 5-10 emails a week, which meant if i took all (or most) of those jobs that i would be okay. and this means taking jobs you aren’t exactly thrilled about at first. in order to get those inquiries, you have to work on getting your name out there. i had designed business cards, a portfolio, and was working as a blogger/freelancer already – so the transition was a little easier. i see nothing wrong with getting your ducks in a row before you start. send emails to friends that might have people to recommend your services to, get active in the social media community, meet with other freelancers over coffee. that way you can hit the ground running…

3. creating a “normal work day.” i don’t really enjoy working in complete silence all day, alone. i did that for two months and realized very quickly that i was going a little crazy. i was on a walk with my friend brian (from sharkpig) and we decided it would be fun for all of us to work together in one space. we rented this – we each pay about $250 a month – and that cost is most definitely worth every penny. i try to go in there 2-4 days a week at least and make the most normal routine for myself that i can.  you might be like, “yeah, well what if i don’t have 5 friends to move into a space with?” i do have a lot of freelance friends that work from home and love it, and some friends that enjoy working from coffee shops and live more of an on the go lifestyle. it’s all about figuring out what makes you comfortable.

after that, it just took a little courage. i wrote down on a post-it note at a blogger conference to “quit my day job” and carried it to work with me as a reminder. you know, pick up dry cleaning, get groceries, make a huge scary decision…but that week i walked into my bosses office and explained to her that i wanted to give this a shot and explore a little. she was really understanding and the talk couldn’t have gone better. for the next two weeks i lined up jobs and there was no looking back. a few months later, blogshop started and i finally had the time (well, sort of) to dedicate to my ideas.

and we are by no means saying – GO! QUIT! NOW! because that’s just not realistic. but hopefully if you are looking for a little push, this helps. i know i needed about 47 little pushes…and remember that freelance life still has it’s bad days, but it is filled with really good ones too.

(illustration by katie evans. read more freelance advice posts are over here!)

29 COMMENTS

Add your own

    Michele B says:

    I just handed in my two weeks on Monday so I could do my photo business full time. It’s both exciting and scary, but mostly I’m excited to finally give my growing business a chance 🙂

    Sarolta says:

    Thank you for your honesty! I love to read your opinions and hear about your career stories.

    Stephanie T says:

    Wow! To wake up to an animated gif of a “quit” post it is a MASSIVE sign to me!!! I have been back and forth about the freelance/full-time debate for more than a year now! I agree with points both of you made and my saga continues, but I think I am leaps closer to a decision. Thank you sooooooooo much for this post. Such motivation!!!

    Anni says:

    I love this. I’m aiming to go full-time this winter/spring, and it’s terrifying to me. My husband went back to school, so he can only work part time. And since I’m in photography, there was a lot of really expensive gear to save up for, so it depleted any profit I made for awhile. Which means that I have panic attacks, pretty much daily about whether or not I’ll be able to make this work. Doesn’t help that the inquiries I get in a week always seem to come in one day. Don’t know what it is, but I’ll get 5-7 on one day, and then crickets for days afterwards.

    Sorry for the rambling, and a big thank you for this post! I love your advice, especially about the normal workday.

    Chelsey says:

    My last day at my full time sales manager job is next week (after a long 4 months since I gave my notice). I am so excited to run my letterpress business full time and do all of the things I never would have allowed myself to dream before. It is scary, but I am proud of myself for believing that I can do it and succeed.

    just love reading this ladies. i’ll be ready soon…i hope! yay for freelance.

    Natasha says:

    Bri you’re such an inspiration!!! Seriously!!! My last day at my day job is tomorrow! Going to try to make it as a full time freelance web developer. Your blog posts definitely played a big part in my decision and I sincerely appreciate all of the posts you’ve penned on this subject!!!

    This is great, ladies!! I love hearing your perspectives and experiences. When I was working full-time for the gov’t, I didn’t think that I’d ever be my own boss – when I started my little biz on the side as a hobby and for extra cash and it took off, a photographer/friend told me that when the side gig makes about 80% of what the day job makes, it’s time to leave and go full-time with the business… so for about 4 months, I worked my 8-5 job, got home and worked on my business until about 5 am (hour break for dinner)… slept an hour, got up and did it all again – but it paid off. I’m a super non risk taker and agree with both of you that you definitely want to go into it with a plan! In the real world, there are lots of expenses and surprises and being prepared is always your best bet. 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Jenny says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am in this exact situation as we speak, and have been on the fence about it for years! I enjoyed reading this and seeing the comments as well. 🙂

    Brandy says:

    thank you, thank you for this!

    Awesome, thank you! I’m in the process of creating that savings padding by working at a full-time job and freelancing nights & weekends on the side so I can break out and freelance full-time by next summer. I wish I could do it like… today, but in the long run I know I will feel so amazing to know I have 6+ months salary in the bank and it will free me up to do even better work when I’m not just in survival mode. I know what it feels like to have no idea where my next penny is going to come from (when I was in college) and it was really awful.

    viv says:

    I really needed this advise!
    Newest follower 🙂
    http://www.fashiontruffles.com

    Diana Brambila says:

    Gracias!! this comes at the right time and gave me a couple of pushes of the 47 or more that I need =)

    THANKS LADIES FOR ONCE AGAIN BRINGING SOME GOOD INFORMATION. THE STATEMENT, “YOU LEARN SOMETHING NEW EVERYDAY” JUST SANK IN EVEN DEEPER.

    Hayley says:

    Really inspiring and also very realistic! Thanks for the advice. Its definitely a motivational push in the freelance direction.

    gloria waters says:

    so inspiring and once again, perfect timing. i work at subway… yes the sandwich place. but i have 2 jobs working for an event stylist blog and then a wedding blog as a creative director, then there’s clients for my graphic design services too. i am so overworked, its 12:47am and after a long day of cars breaking down and endless emails (at least the guy who towed my car needs a logo! new client!) i am sitting here with a red bull, ready for a long night of diy-ing, packaging design, editorial design, and blog prepping… just because it’s the only time i can spare. i needed this post to reassure me that i must keep going. thanks bri & katie. -gloria

    i really needed to read this today. my dream is to work freelance one day and i love the post it idea — maybe i’ll do this too 🙂 xx

    Tiffany C says:

    Love this post because its practical AND inspirational. The thought of saving 6 months worth of expenses is extremely smart and so is just going for it!
    I have a long way to go before im ready to leave my day job, but if I can keep building my client base, I will be in a great place.
    Awesome post.

    Molly Alone says:

    thanks for this advice! I know have a post-it note on my bedroom door that says “quit your day job”! i hope that ill have the courage to do it soon 🙂

    I have a question for you and Katie! What do you do when you are feeling completely unmotivated to do anything? I’ve been on the go-go-go for the past year and half – pinning, reading, getting inspired, writing my blog, painting and creating pieces for others (and for myself) – and for the past week and a half, I just want to take a nap! What do you do when you just want to watch the Food Network and stay in your pajamas all day? What re-energizes you after you feel completely burnt out?

    Thanks you guys!

    Jennifer M. says:

    This is great advice. Although for me, it took just doing it. I had no back-up plan. I just knew that I couldn’t stay at my day job one second longer. Part of me wonders if I ever would’ve quit if I hadn’t have just done it quickly. That steady paycheck was such a draw for me, even though it made me miserable to work there. I’m not saying I did it the “right” way, but I don’t think I would’ve had the courage to act if I’d stopped to make a plan.

    Ana says:

    Getting a good routine is a bit tricky for me – I either work 18 hours straight (7 days in a row) or chill 18 hours straight.

    I’ll have to find a way to make some good, both practical and healthy, boundaries for myself.

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