The question I get asked most about going freelance is not how did you do it but how did you know you were ready to do it?
My answer is perhaps not the traditional one. I did not save up a year’s salary. I did not build up clients on the side while working my full-time job. Basically, all of the things they tell you do in freelance articles and books: I did not do.
I am not saying these are not good things to do before going freelance.
For me, it happened a different way when at my six-week review in a job I hated, I quit.
As a result, I ‘became freelance’ pretty unceremoniously the next day when I woke up and realised I had no where to be that day.
It was scary but also exhilarating.
I didn’t have a ‘plan’ as such. Freelance was something I thought about that would be in the far off future. Like having a kitchen with a breakfast bar, or a volvo. It was not something I thought I would be doing there and then.
But despite not having a plan of sorts, there are three things which looking back, really helped me get the kick start I needed.
1. My first client
A slight saving grace was that the week before I’d contacted an Eczema cream company that I’d been an unpaid patron for to see if they needed any (paid) marketing support. On my first day as ‘freelance’ I had a call with the owner who commissioned me to work with them on an initial six-month contract.
It was a minor contract from a small family run business. But getting freelance work is like shopping. If you buy something in the first shop, you’re going to have an awesome shopping trip. That first client, albeit small, cemented my belief that OF COURSE I CAN DO THIS. It also meant I knew I could cover at least half of my bills the next month.
Do not underestimate the importance of your first client. Even if they are small, if they are outside of your niche or you think they’re giving you a job out of pity. Take it on and work bloody hard at it, because it will fuel your confidence and passion to keep going and see what else you can do.
2. A routine
One thing I was mega strict on was showing up every single day. That first month as ‘freelance’ (which some people may have just called ‘unemployed’) I did not book anything in within traditional working hours that wasn’t to do with the freelance business I wanted to build.
I got up at 7am each day, I showered and got dressed. I spent time researching markets, reading marketing blogs, looking up new startups on Twitter, emailing anyone I’d ever worked with, updating my LinkedIn and Twitter and so on.
18-months in, if I want to meet a friend for coffee, take a nap or go to the gym I will. But in those first few months I acted like my 9-5 was to hustle.
Despite not having any savings, I did have a very kind and supportive boyfriend and living partner who told me he could cover my outgoings for a few months if need be.
That never actually happened because by the end of month one I’d built up enough clients to earn more than I was previously earning in my London job.
BTW – I’m not one for a #humblebrag I just wanted to say this as most of the freelance stories I read spoke of being broke for six months before they make it so unless I am the complete exception (highly doubtful) I wanted to give you faith that it is possible to begin making bucks straight away.
However, having the security that I wouldn’t be out on the streets shaking my shoulders for dollar-dollar bills did help give me strength in those early days.
Secondly, was the moral support. Unfortunately, the bosses of the job-I-hated took pleasure in telling me that I was making a huge mistake in leaving and that I would 100% look back and regret it.
This is not the message I think anyone should go off into their freelance life with. However, I was lucky enough that I had a few good close friends, my partner and my parents who had 100% unwavering belief in me that of course I could do this and that, more importantly, I should do it.
The moral support of people believing in you when you’re not sure if you believe in yourself is like golddust. Let them surround you with kind words and positive affirmations and you will feel like Harry Potter when his family comes out of Marvolo Gaunt’s Ring to walk him to Voldemort/
If you don’t have people like that around you right now who get the journey then come and find me and I will support you and tell you that YO YOU GOT THIS. On repeat, for days, until you are forced to block me on Twitter and email.
So the moral of the story is that there is no good time to chase your dreams. There is no day you will wake up and feel ‘I am ready to go freelance/build a startup/skydive today’. There will always be more months you could save, more ‘experience’ you could gain and more outgoings you could pay first.
But if you’re reading this article, then you’ve probably already made the decision. And somewhere within you is an incredible business owner just waiting to be giving the chance to show the world what they can do.
Maybe you should let them have a go.