Freelancing seems to becoming the career trend of the decade! More and more individuals opting out of their secure, 9-5 jobs and into freelance, or contract gigs that offer more flexibility and creative freedom.
It’s a scary leap, one I personally felt entirely unprepared for. No matter how many blogs or books I read of other 20-somethings who shared their struggles of building successful businesses from the ground up, nothing seemed to calm the nerves inside my body that shuttered at the thought of potentially falling flat on my face.
The real reality is that there is no “rule book” to freelancing. Which, I also found out meant, there’s no secret sauce to success. What works for one person, isn’t necessarily going to work for you. But this is kind of the beauty of working for yourself—trying things until you figure out what works, and having the freedom to decide what doesn’t.
With that said, there are a few key pieces of advice that I wish I had focused more energy on in the very beginning—advice I feel every want-to-be-freelancer should know before turning in that two week notice.
1. FACE YOUR FINANCES
Believe it or not, things only get more complicated financially when you’re rocking that 1099 status. As a freelancer, you will likely take on the responsibilities of bookkeeper, accountant and CFO for at least for a little while until you can allocate funds to hire a professional.
However, there are a ton of amazing apps out there now that will make this chore a little easier to face in the meantime—because, trust me, you will need to. Being someone who has never liked checking my bank account, I have particularly fallen in love with programs like Qapital, which automatically syphons out a portion of each deposit to apply to quarterly tax payments, and Quick Books, which helps me keep track of invoices, mileage and other deductions, as well as exactly what I should be paying the IRS every quarter. Here are few of my favorite money management tools:
THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT!
2. ESTABLISH A PROFESSIONAL COMMUNITY
As an introvert, this has probably been the most difficult gap for me to bridge. After a long day of work, the last thing I want to do is muster up the energy for small talk in a crowd full of strangers. I know this isn’t an issue for everyone, so I won’t go into details on how I overcome this. But rather, stress the importance of putting yourself out there despite any fears you might have. It really is all about who you know!
If you’re struggling to find networking opportunities, check out sites like Meet Up and Facebook to find professional networking events. A few of my favorite places to network in Austin are at the #ATXConnectionMixer, various BossBabe events, and the Paper + Craft Pantry’s Small Business School #IRL panels.
3. DETERMINE A SCHEDULE THAT IS GOING TO MAKE YOU HAPPY
Not everyone is a morning person, and that’s okay! Choose the hours and days you want to work, based on what works well with your current lifestyle. Do you want a traditional weekend? Do you want to work a full 40 hours a week? Will you be scheduling all of your client meetings on a certain day?
Once you’ve picked your “work week,” I’d recommend advertising them like you would for a retail shop or business (listing them on your website, at the footer of your emails, etc.) . Not only will it help hold you accountable, but it will your help clients know when you’re easily reachable.
4. GET TO KNOW YOUR WORTH
Okay. So, this may not come as a surprise to many, but pricing your services can be one of the trickiest parts of the freelance game. Even professionals who have been in the industry for several years still stress over pricing their services accordingly. It’s a constant give and take.
So, while you may feel like because you’re new to the game you should charge less to build a client base, doesn’t mean that you actually deserve less. Look at your finance goals (what do you want to be making every year + business overhead + an additional 30% for taxes) and price yourself accordingly. It’s okay to cut discounts or offer trade deals for projects you believe will help grow your brand, just keep in mind that it’s very hard to raise rates once you set them.
5. DON’T GET HUNG UP ON BEING A NEWB
Literally everyone in the industry has been where you are right now. Wondering if chasing this crazy dream is worth it, whether they’re worth it, or whether they’ll even make it.
What I’ve found the most reassuring is that, while freelancing can feel like this daunting solo journey, the truth is there are SO many people out there who are willing to support you along the way. Don’t be afraid to own your newbie status!
No one has gotten where they are today by doing it alone. And chances are, if you open up about your struggles and fears, there will be people jumping at the bit to encourage you or share how they overcame a similar situation when they were first starting out. There is a whole community waiting to meet and support your dream!
Some say that freelancing isn’t for the faint of heart…and that may be true in some respects because it is hard work. But (while I know it’s sometimes hard to internalize) I truly believe that you are capable of paving the path you dream of walking in life. It may not be an easy journey, but it is so worth it!
* This post originally appeared on The Paper Craft + Pantry’s Small Business School blog series *