I work with a lot of freelancers who are thinking of turning their passion into a full time gig. I too was a freelancer of sorts when I left my ‘day job’ to launch StartUp Creative. When I decided that I wanted to work for myself, I knew that it wouldn't be as simple as quitting one and starting the other. I had bills to pay and a certain lifestyle that I wanted to uphold which meant that there had to be money coming in. Most people are in this situation, so I would never advise anyone to up and leave a secure paying job to blindly follow their passion. I believe it’s necessary to have a clear plan for replacing income and ensuring business has real potential.
If you're looking to embark on the full time worker to freelancer journey, here are my top tips to ensure you have success and get the timing right.
1. Do the work
Starting a business or freelance career whilst working full or part time can be the best way to get a few runs on the board. If you know that you have money coming in from your ‘day job’, it alleviates the pressure for your passion to have to earn you big bucks from day one. When you take away the financial pressure you’ll be able to spend more time delivering a great product or service that blows your client’s mind. Another perk for starting out like this means that the extra cash you're making on the side can be used to reinvest in your business, be it a standout website, business cards, advertising or building up your cash supplies for when you eventually quit.
2. Drop down your hours
Once you start to land some clients, you will have proven that your product or service is viable (aka people will pay for it). The trick here is to manage the juggle between your day job and your passion/side business. No doubt you’ll be feeling pretty excited about the success of your business and it will become harder and harder to ‘go to work’ everyday. It’s now that you begin negotiating with your boss to drop your hours and ‘days in the office’. For me I was working 5 days a week, so my first step was dropping to 4 days and eventually a ‘work from home day’. This allowed me to get all of my work for my job done in a shorter amount of time and allocate more time to my true passion. The book ‘4 Hour Work Week’ has some great tips for how to negotiate less hours at your workplace.
3. Under promise and over deliver
My number one piece of advice for you in this stage is to not over commit.The old saying of over promising and under-delivering is the fastest way to sink your business before it has even started. Be diligent with your work load, give yourself achievable deadlines and have relentless integrity. Good quality communication and business people who do what they say they are going to do is hard to come by. If you can live by these virtues from day one in your business you are bound to stand out and build a remarkable business. If clients are after hard and fast deadlines that you just can’t meet, don’t feel like you have to compromise your standards to meet their needs. If they really want to work with you, they will wait.
4. Be Organised
Set your business up to succeed from the beginning. Create systems for yourself that will allow you to spend as little time as possible managing invoices, replying to emails and taking pointless meetings. So many businesses and freelancers crumble before they’ve reached their real potential because they get stuck working ‘in the business.’ If this is something you struggle with, that’s ok. A lot of creative people find it hard to do both the creative/practical side of the business as well as the managerial business side. If this sounds like you, hire yourself a business coach or personal assistant to get you organised. Trust me, it’s one of the best things you’ll do for your business.
5. Do the figures
If you think you're ready to make the transition from the day job to a thriving freelancer or business owner, then it is time to do the figures. You should have an idea of how much it truly costs you to deliver your product or service because you’ve been in the market place for a while already. You will also know how much people are willing to spend on what you have to offer. From here you need to work out how much profit you can make per sale (sale price - cost price = profit) and how much you would like to earn weekly/monthly/annually. The next step is to multiply how many items you think you can sell (based on your time and the demand) by the profit. This will give you a dollar figure that you can use to work out if your business is ready to support you full time. As your time in the business and the demand for your service/product grows, so will your profit and you will be able to pinpoint when is a good time to make the jump.
Transition from one to the other may sound easy and exciting and at times it will be, but be prepared to hustle hard. Going into business for yourself is challenging and there will be days when you think WTF have I done. If you test your product/service, do the figures, seek out good advice and carefully plan your transition, it can and will be the best thing you’ll ever do.