I'll be the first to admit it: leaving a safe, reliable in-house job in the midst of a recession doesn't seem like the smartest thing to do. Especially considering I knew nothing about working for myself, and the thought of selling my own work on a daily basis felt a little bit terrifying. But to the disbelief of both my wide-eyed colleagues and myself, this is what happened; I jumped into the freelancing pool at the murky end. I wasn't completely empty-handed: I had skills and experience, and pig-headed determination.
I went freelance because I wanted an adventure, I wanted flexibility and I wanted to steer my own ship. As the world of work is changing I'm not alone in this; the gold watch for long and faithful service is a thing of the past. It's early days for the so-called "gig economy" but the trend is clear: more and more of us are making our pennies from assignments, not employments; and its portfolios and not CVs that land us those gigs. Being a freelancer can be daunting, but the rewards are considerable. Here are three things I did that worked when making the transition.
Several people told me I was reckless and irresponsible when I quit my job to go it alone, while others just looked terribly concerned. A few cheered me on, and these were invariably people who'd already taken the plunge. Of course it's worth considering the opinions of people who care about you, but I have concluded that taking advice on freelancing from someone working in-house is akin to taking travel advice from someone who's never left the country. Trust your instincts.
I knowingly broke the key rule a new freelancer should follow to avoid ending up living in a ditch in the park: to get work going before quitting the day job. I didn't do this, and I have no regrets. Because few people go freelance because they love their life, they do it because they are desperate for a change. So I recommend the opposite approach: expect nothing of yourself for the first few weeks. Take some time to rest and recuperate, as chances are you'll be knackered. This was the best advice I've got at the time, and a few weeks later the most incredible thing happened: the urge to work came back with a vengeance.
Make do and mend
A certain amount of savings is necessary to get through all this lovely self-discovery. Three months' worth of money is the absolute minimum, but double that will let you sleep at night. Realistically, this goes hand in hand with cutting out non-essential spending; for a whole year I didn't buy a single piece of new clothing, but I was so caught up in my little adventure that I barely noticed.
... Lastly, a bit of fair warning: working according to your own fancy is addictive, so you may end up unfit for traditional employment. As the poet almost said: a little freedom is a dangerous thing.
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