Many freelancers don’t just wake up one morning and decide to be self-employed. Many, like me, work in another job, building the contacts, confidence and cash reserves required to step out and go solo. However, doing so can be a little risky if you need to balance a full-time job with your new freelance career.
Here are 6 tips for making the leap from employed to self-employed.
1. Be honest – you’ll get caught anyway
Let’s face it, it’s impossible to do two jobs properly if you have to do one of them in hiding. When I started freelancing I spoke to my boss and we came to an agreement. That way, when my byline started appearing it wouldn’t come as a surprise. Make sure you keep a paper or email trail so that if there’s a change in management you can keep freelancing on the basis of the agreement.
2. Don’t let the universes collide
If you’re going to start working for yourself, register a domain and set up an account with Google Apps or some email provider. That will accomplish two things. It’ll make you look more professional with your new clients (using a Gmail or Hotmail account makes you, in my view, look like an amateur) and ensure that you don’t use your employer’s email system for personal messages.
While you’re at it – get a separate mobile phone account so that you can’t be accused of using the business phone inappropriately. If the budget is tight, you can buy unlocked handsets for less than $50 and then get a pre-paid account so that you can receive calls.
3. Be sneaky
OK – so this might sound a little dodgy but you’re going to have to sneak off from time to time. I suggest making sure you use your full lunch break every day – whether you need it or not. That way, when you need to head out for a meeting or make a non-employer related call being out of the office won’t stand out as much.
4. Keep doing your day job well
All the preparation in the world will come to nothing if you mess up your full-time job. Managing the balance is hard but if you miss on an expected bonus or, worse still, get canned you’ll need to go hungry
5. Manage the transition
If your plan is to leave your fulltime job and go 100% freelance you’ll need to plan. Set some targets so that you know how the transition will work. If you can, try to have enough money in the bank so that you can survive for between three and six months after leaving fulltime employment.
You’ll also need to ramp up your freelance work in the lead up to the transition so that you can hit the ground running on Day 1 of your freelance life. That will mean careful time management so that you manage both jobs.
6. Leave on good terms
You never know what will happen in the future. Make sure that your departure from your fulltime employer is on good terms.