I’ve been a freelance writer for over two decades (since 1993). I’ve had so many ups and downs that I could write a book on what NOT to do when you quit to freelance full-time. My journey could have been so much smoother had I planned for it. But my ups and downs taught me a lot. Here, I’ll share three things I wished I’d done before diving into freelancing full time. I hope it helps make your journey that much easier.
1. Recognize that You’re Going to Goof Off: I start with this because time is your most important asset as a freelance writer. And you shouldn’t waste it. When you do, it’s like throwing money down the drain because when you’re not working, you’re not making any money – unlike when you have a full-time job with a guaranteed paycheck.
But the first few weeks you have your freedom, you’re going go goof off – you just are. It’s like a young adult moving out of their parent’s house for the first time. You have all this freedom. There’s no one to tell you when to come home, when to go to bed, when to get up, when to clean, etc.
If you recognize that this is going to happen, you’re much more likely to nip it in the bud before it becomes a (very bad) habit.
You see, when you start a freelance writing career, you have to be prepared for the mental challenges (which this is), just like the financial ones, which brings me to my next freelancing tip.
2. Take Stock of Your Finances: You should do this six months to a year out. I’ve conversed with freelancers who said they planned their exits from their full-time jobs three to four years out. Of course, the more money you have stockpiled, the better.
Most financial experts like Suze Orman recommend eight months to a year’s expenses (emergency) fund. When I went freelance for good in 2007, I had practically nothing in savings. It was because I got down-sized out of my last job, so was unprepared.
While you’re employed full-time is the best time to apply for that line of credit at the bank (just in case); find out how easy it will be to tap 401K money (and what the penalties are if you can’t pay it back in a timely manner); pay off as much debt as possible to decrease your monthly overhead; etc.
3. Prepare for Full Days of Work: One of the great things about freelancing is that you can do things like go grocery shopping in the middle of the day and see your kids off to school in the morning and pick them up in the afternoon.
But, these things can wreak havoc with your income. So put contingencies in place. For example, maybe you could buddy with another parent to alternate picking up and dropping off the kids from school.
This way, you can streamline your days/weeks so that you have more work time because trust me, especially when you first start your freelance writing business , you’re going to have to put in some hours (8-10 or 12 per day is recommended) to make it work.
There’s much more to do before you quit your job to freelance full-time, but if you do these three things, you’ll exponentially increase your chance of succeeding as a freelance writer.