The Road to Freelance

Many established professionals consider leaving the world of traditional employment and launching a Freelance consulting career.  The growing lack of job security,  as evidenced by the unemployment rate,  along with the increasing occurrence of toxic work environments endured by those who are working,  have caused many people to give serious thought to self-employment.

I’ve found much personal and professional satisfaction in Freelance nation but there are challenges.  Preparation is key and if you’re still on the job,  begin now to build the infrastructure that will support your transition.   Take the steps while on the corporate dime to sock away some cash and learn how to approach your business clients and contacts as an independent professional.  Learn how to package and sell your services and determine and negotiate fees for the scope of work you will perform.  Visit professional associations and meet Freelancers who do what you aspire to do and ask some questions,  especially on how to build visibility and credibility as an independent consultant in your industry.

Build your savings account

Aim to have savings that will allow you to cover your living expenses for 12 months.  You don’t know how long it will take to sign your first client,  or the one after that.  Freelancers,  especially in the beginning,  will need cash to float themselves,  especially if one is the sole or primary breadwinner.  Furthermore,  scheduled  projects have a nasty habit of being delayed or even canceled.

Start saving money now by eliminating those $5.00 coffee drinks.  Brown bag your lunch whenever possible and cut back on nights out eating and drinking by 75%.  Do not buy any clothing you don’t absolutely need and cancel any vacation plans.  Remember that in addition to paying for living expenses,  you may need to buy or upgrade technology hardware and/or software and will also need to pay for marketing materials  (business cards, website, etc.)  so that you can effectively operate and promote your business.

Business plan and business model

You must figure out how you will get clients,  select the services you will offer and how to determine your fees.  You must choose the marketing materials you will use and decide what they will look like.  You must define the best target client groups and know how to approach them and convince them to hire you for Freelance work—even if you’ve worked with them as an employee of you current organization.  Do you need to be accepted onto an approved vendor list in order to be considered for hire?  Discreetly ask questions of those you can trust to not rat you out to your boss.   Also get an understanding of the typical length of the sales cycle.

Additionally,  it is necessary that you assess the competitive landscape.  The presence of competition is good,  as it demonstrates the need for services you provide and shows that Freelancers are hired to fulfill those needs.  However,  you don’t want to be in an over-crowded marketplace,  unless you are a very heavy-hitter.

Finally,  summon the discipline to write a business plan.  A mission statement,  comprehensive marketing plan and basic cash flow and profit and loss statements will provide a useful road map to get you started and encourage you to examine what will be required to make your Freelance venture successful.  I wish you the best of luck.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

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