If you’ve been working as a salaried individual for most of your professional life, then freelancing may seem like such a wonderful and liberating prospect. After all, who wouldn’t want to stop having to deal with the dreadful traffic day in and day out, as well as having a lot more agency when it comes to their time and energy? Who wouldn’t jump at the chance of being able to work directly with clients instead of for a manager? The list of upsides when it comes to being a freelancer can go on and on, and for the perennially tired salaryman or woman, it can be very tempting to throw caution to the wind and jump headlong into it.
With that said, it’s not something that should be considered lightly. All the benefits of freelancing also come with quite a few downsides, some of which you may find difficult to struggle with even with your best efforts. However, you can mitigate these downsides by doing specific tasks before taking that huge first step of quitting your day job. The following is a list of these very tasks.
Plan everything out beforehand
Before you hand in your two weeks’ notice, think very long and hard about what you’re about to do, and then try to commit that to a written plan that you can refer to and revise as necessary. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What are you going to do as a freelancer?
- What are your most profitable skills?
- What kind of value are you going to offer clients as a freelancer?
- What kind of competition will you be dealing with?
- How are you going to find clients?
- What kind of clients are you looking for?
Some of these questions can be answered via a quick Google search or simply asking around. For example, you can check out how the job market scene is with your desired freelancing job by checking out freelance job websites like Smalljobs.ph.
However, some of the more important ones you will have to figure out for yourself, such as what you actually want to do as a freelancer and what kind of skillset are you bringing to the table. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box—it’s very common for freelancers to do something that’s wildly different from what they used to do in their salaried professions. You may be a data entry worker now, but what if you’ve always had the knack for catering, web design, or visual design?
Just remember to make sure that your alternate skill set is marketable and you’ll be fine. After all, as passionate as you are about something like art, probably no one will hire you if you have absolutely no experience in doing it professionally, or if you lack a comparable portfolio for them to judge you with.
Figure out where you are financially
Another very important thing to do before quitting your job is figuring out where you’re at, financially. This may seem like a lot of busywork, but it’s going to save you a lot of headaches and stress going forward if you nail down your financial specifics before actually moving headlong into freelancing. Some key questions to answer here are the following:
- How much do you spend on a monthly basis?
- What are your biggest non-essential expenses? Can you do without them for a while?
- How much do you pay for basic utilities?
- What are your savings looking like?
- Do you have an emergency fund? How much is it?
One of the most common pitfalls of any starting freelancer is to underestimate the potential money flow problems that freelancing comes with. Remember, you’re not going to have that reliable safety net of a regular paycheck once or twice a month. By answering the questions above, you get a very clear idea of what you need to earn every month to not only survive, but to live comfortably as well.
If you don’t have any savings, then delay your freelancing plans and start saving now. Ideally, you want to have at least six months of income set aside as a safety buffer. If you can, save for even longer. You should also have a “rainy day” fund that’s separate from your savings, just in case the unthinkable happens. Doing these will help you survive your starting months as a freelancer, as it’s very likely that you’ll find the cash inflow to be a bit thin and infrequent in this period.
Finally, if you don’t have your own health insurance, then make sure to get it. There are many health insurance providers in the Philippines that are relatively affordable rates.
Make yourself a home office
If you’ve always worked in a cubicle or an open office setup, then working from home will seem like paradise—at first. However, a few days (or weeks) into the deal, and you’ll quickly find the wisdom of having an actual office, in that it helps you block out distractions and lets you focus on getting the work done. Working from home will mean that you’re constantly exposed to all sorts of elements and temptations than take your mind off of work.
Combat this by making your own comfortable home office. Set aside a room or corner of the home where you only do work and nothing else. If you want to take a breather, then step away from that area. By sequestering work to only that space, you develop the mental discipline that will see you through tough deadlines and the ever-present temptation to procrastinate.
It’s also a good idea to tell your family and loved ones that if they see you working in that office area, then that means they need to treat you like you’re at work, and that they have to respect that. They can’t just call you away from your work unless it’s really needed, like during emergencies.
Become an invoicing and billing expert
Another reality that you’ll have to learn on your own is that freelancing requires you to handle your own money matters. This means being diligent with billing and invoicing, as well as being in step with your tax-related responsibilities.
When you and your client have agreed to a rate, make sure that every bit of work and every hour is accounted for in your final invoice, and that the invoice itself is detailed in a very clear and legible fashion. This cuts down on any potential confusion on the client’s part as to what they need to pay you, which could result in repeated questioning or requests for clarification. It’ll also help stop them from being irrationally suspicious about hidden or mysterious charges. Make sure to do research on how to make proper and detailed invoices.
There’s also the fact that clients will almost always be late in their payments. That’s just a fact of freelancing. As such, you have to be on the ball when it comes to reminding your clients that they have pending invoices to pay. Don’t be shy about doing so—remember, you’ve already done what they asked for, so you’re well within your rights to go after that money. This is your bread and butter, and you have to be proactive about it.
Start freelancing as early as now, at least on a part-time basis
Finally, before you leave your day job, it’s a good idea to get a head start on introducing yourself to your chosen industry’s freelancing scene. Make a portfolio or resume in your chosen freelancing job website, and get started as a part-timer. This way, when you actually take the plunge, you’ll already have a bit of experience—and ideally, some regular clients who are very happy with your work—when you do.
This part-time period will help make your transition that much easier and smoother. It’ll also help you clear any doubts on whether or not freelancing is for you, or if you are really better off working in your salaried position.
Freelancing isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely worth trying for yourself
Not everyone is cut out for freelancing. Some of us are just wired to be better at a salaried position. Others may even flourish and do astoundingly well professionally in the office grind, even with all its daily stressors. However, if you really feel like you need a change of pace and want to see what you can do, then there’s no harm in trying. The above-listed tips should be helpful you first start getting your feet wet. Remember, working is a lifetime profession. It’s up to you and only you to make sure that what you’re doing is something that you’ll be happy about.