ADVICE / 29
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.
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.