Preparing to start a freelance career

By Rhonda Campbell

You’ve saved eight months or more of gross income  in preparation of launching a freelance career. You’ve also familiarized yourself with tax deductions that you qualify for as a freelancer. Your budget is in good shape and you have the office supplies and family support that you need to focus on assignments without constantly being interrupted by relatives and friends who think you’re just hanging out because you’re working from home.

Now, it’s time to prepare to start a winning freelance career. It bears repeating that you’re going to need to sit down and speak with your relatives and close friends, this includes small children. Be clear and let them know that you’re still working full-time . . . from home. Just as they wouldn’t call you 20 or more times while you worked off-site at a traditional job, let them know that you can’t succeed as a freelancer if they interrupt you 20 plus times while you’re working from home.

Other steps you can take to prepare for a successful freelance career, include:

  • Identify an area in your home where you’ll work absent interruptions. Forget putting a TV in this room. You need to focus on your work. Do hang artwork and place family portraits in your at home office. Order or construct a comfortable desk and chair. Ergonomics are no joke; you really need to be healthy and comfortable while you pursue your freelance career.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast and take a daily break so you can get in good exercise.
  • Don’t scrimp on sleep. Relax and knock out six or more hours of sleep each night.
  • Set a daily work schedule and stick to it. Fudge on this one and, as surprising as it may sound, you could easily end up working until midnight or later.
  • Spend an hour a day searching for new clients. Even if you have five or more major clients, if you want a long term freelance career, keep seeking out new clients.
  • Spend one to two hours a week marketing your services online and offline (i.e. creating and distributing postcards, attending in-person networking events, fulfilling public speaking engagements that focus on the work you do).
  • Update your budget on a weekly or monthly (at a minimum) basis. Stick to your budget. Definitely identify how much money you’ll need to generate each week and month to cover your expenses. If you want to succeed as a freelancer, guessing about how much money you have is not the way to go. Spreadsheets are great tools to use to create and track your freelance career expenses and overall budget.
  • Take two to three training courses (consider free online courses) a year to expand your skill set.
  • Create contracts that protect your and your clients from a legal standpoint.

If you run into financial challenges while freelancing, don’t be proud and avoid taking on a traditional gig for awhile. For example, you could take on a part-time traditional job until your client work increases and your freelance career becomes your sole or major source of income. Remember – the key is to do work that you love, not to be able to say that you work from home.

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