As a former corporate flack with a cushy job who transitioned to a freelancer/consultant over three years ago, I’ve had to transform many things to make it work. Below are six of my personal tips some I learned the hard way that will help you prepare to kiss “working for the man” good-bye.
1. Change your mindset. I had to get comfortable with the uncertainty of when and what project will come next. It was difficult and required lots of meditation and prayer. The more I meditated and prayed, I realized that my needs had always been met and would continue to be. I knew that I wouldn’t be homeless or hungry. Plus, I knew if things got to bad I could always move home with parents in Alabama. Clearly, that’s enough to put anyone in major hustle mode to figure out how to make freelancing work!
2. Be vulnerable. You’re going to need to swallow your pride enough to reach out for help and introductions. Think of yourself as head of biz dev for yourself. and get advice pricing, contracts and pitches. As a freelancer/consultant/business owner you can’t operate in a vacuum. People have to know what you’re doing and what you want to do. Reach out to people in your network and share resources. If you have information that can help someone, share it! It will comeback to you tenfold. And, ABN…always be networking.
3. Accept that you can not take every gig that comes your way – even if you desperately need the money. There will be projects or opportunities that you are not suited for. Be honest about that and pass it along to someone in your network that would be better suited for the opportunity. Take it from me, there is not worse that taking a job just for the money when you know in your gut it isn’t right. Try to see every angle, and access how the project feels to you. Do you have skills, contacts, an passion to complete the job where the potential client will be happy with your work? Will you feel tortured every time you get an email or call from the client? Be honest and realistic about your capacity to get the job done and pass it on to a friend or trusted business acquaintance who will knock it out of the park. Again, it will boomerang back to you.
4. Save, save and save some more. Be realistic about your wardrobe and lifestyle needs. Do you need an all new fall wardrobe or those new Rag & Bone booties? Probably not. Pick out 3- 5 really strong outfits for meetings and parties and recycle them to death. Chances are you’re not meeting the same people in a week, so wear that outfit all week. No one really knows or cares if you’re Rag & Bone booties were from last season or 2o12. Do you need to meet friends or business contacts for lunch or dinner. Since I don’t have a corporate expense account anymore, I usually opt for coffee or happy hour drinks? Remember to put aside at least half of your earnings from each project for both retirement and investments. Get at least half of the project fee/deposit upfront and of course, save it.
5. Never EVER work without a contract. Even if you are working with “trusted” friends make sure there is a clear cut contract in place before you start the project. Make sure the scope of work is clear and concise. Try not to be pressured to take a job quickly without thinking through the scope of work and the execution plan. I had one horrible experience this year where I did not have a contract on project that I knew I shouldn’t have taken. Let’s just say I am still paying for that mistake.
6. Enjoy the downtime! Try not to freak out when you have down time from projects or work. It may be hard to justify taking an expensive trip even if you have the time, but taking a fun and unexpected day trip to hike or explore a museum in nearby town is worth it. Catch up on your life by organizing, paying bills anything that will help get you ahead of the game before the new project that will inevitably take over your life comes. Remember you’re not on the proverbial corporate hamster wheel for a reason. As most of us in the self-employment world knows, when it hits the fan it hits it hard and fast. Take full advantage of it while you can.
Here are few more practical resources for life in the freelance lane:
Tell us some of the ways you’ve had to transform to embrace life being self-employed.
Note: This post originally ran September 29, 2015. It has been updated with a few additional resources.