3 approaches for getting into freelancing

Taking the plunge into freelancing full time is a big decision, particularly if you need to be the main earner in your household. Whether you tread cautiously or go all-in from the start, there are pros and cons to whichever method you choose.

After doing freelance work on and off for years with no real direction, I ended up taking the plunge to go fully self-employed with very little in the way of savings and no back up plan. I knew I had the skills, it was just how to implement them and get into a way of work that made me feel happier and more fulfilled. Jumping in the deep end isn’t for everyone, but happily it’s not your only option. Read on to find out more.

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1. Testing the waters

This is generally the first stage of approaching freelancing. People at this stage are generally aiming to make freelancing a considerable part of their life in the future, but they are naturally cautious and not sure if it’s a viable or long-term career choice at this point. If you have a regular job and you’re used to your salary, you’re likely to stay at this stage longer.

However, it’s also a valuable time for you to figure out what you need, how much you can make and where you will get jobs and clients from. There will be limits as to how much work you can do (or will want to do) on top of a job or intensive job hunting as well. If you are still job hunting, it can be off-putting for employers or they might admire your use of time – it could go either way.

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The big advantage to testing the waters, other than finding out if freelancing will be something you enjoy, is that you will end up having your website, contracts and other details set up as a back-up plan. In the unfortunate event that your job hunt is unsuccessful or you want to leave your job, you can start marketing yourself and working on client projects straight away rather than starting from scratch and having to juggle creating your portfolio with working on client projects.

2. Going part time

Whether you’ve gone for the ‘testing the waters’ approach first or not, going part time at your primary job is a great way to see if freelancing is viable for you. Obviously the main sticking point will be whether or not your boss agrees to let you go part time!

A similar option is to quit completely but arrange a contract with your current place of employment to work for them. This can tick a lot of boxes if your job is practical to contract out or do from a distance as you still get guaranteed income but you also have all the benefits of being self-employed, including paying less tax and choosing your own hours.

Going part time can be a good stepping stone towards your freelancing goals, or alternatively give you the best of both worlds. You may well be happy to stick at freelancing part time.

3. Jumping all-in

The third option is to simply take the bull by the horns and just head straight into freelancing full time. This option is more viable for those who currently don’t have a job as it can bridge a gap and you have nothing to lose. Very few people who are employed full-time jump straight into freelancing without at least considering options 1 and 2 above first. However, it does depend on what kind of freelancing you do; for example professional photographers are well-positioned to move into full time freelancing and it’s often much easier than juggling two types of job, particularly if you shoot on location.

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If you are considering moving into freelancing, make sure you’re well prepared. Finish your portfolio first as a priority so you have something impressive to show clients. Make sure you get contracts in order and work out the services and pricing you will offer. Try and have at least six months’ living expenses if you’re the sole earner, and be prepared to work long hours at the start to make yourself successful.

What approach did you (or would you) take to get into freelancing? Let me know in the comments!