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Monday, October 20, 2014

5 Things to Know Before You Freelance Full-time

Last week's post was aimed at brand-new freelancers. Today's is at those considering transitioning from part-time to full-time. Here are five things that every freelancer who wants to go full-time should know:

1.You cannot save enough money. Okay, I don't mean this literally. What I do mean is that you should save as much as you can. I saved six months' worth of living expenses during the year that i was freelancing part-time (and still working 40+-hour weeks as a lawyer), and trust me--I wish I would have saved more. Aim for at least six month's worth of living expenses--and pay down your debt (credit cards, car payments, student loan payments) as much as you can while you're still employed.

2. It will take you longer than you think to get assignments. Unless you've built up a stable of regular clients already, you'll spend much of your time as a new full-time freelancer pursuing clients and assignments. And all that marketing takes a lot of time. Yes, you can pitch like crazy, but you can't make editors assign work to you any faster.

3. Corollary to #2: It will take you longer than you think to get paid. After you actually get an assignment, you have to complete it to the client's satisfaction. Then you get paid...sometimes eventually. Getting paid 30 days, even 45 after acceptance isn't unusual, so recognize that while your accounts payable may be sizable, you can't control when they're collected.

4. You'll face unexpected expenses. Trust me--that money you set aside will be spent more quickly than you realize. A good friend gets married--you need to buy a gift. Your car breaks down. You discover that you need a root canal. Unexpected bills like this can blow your budget, especially when you're not relying on a paycheck. (And that's another reason to sock money away before you go full-time freelance.)

5. You'll doubt yourself. Making the transition from relying on a regular paycheck to to freelancing is stressful. After a week or two of continual marketing--yet no assignments--you may be waking up every morning filled with dread. Recognize that this kind of emotional up-and-down (mostly downs) is part of being self-employed. Focusing on what you can do--searching for clients, sending out targeted queries and letters of introduction, honing your skills, and spreading the word about your freelance work--will help buoy you when you're feeling scared, or anxious, or full of self-doubt. 

This isn't meant to dissuade you from freelancing full-rather--rather, it's to help you succeed as a freelancer, both in the short- and long-term. Next post I'll talk more about making the transition from part- to full-time. 

**Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, Second Edition is a freelancing classic that helps both new and experienced writers boost their bottom line; it's a great tool to help you go from part- to full-time. My newest  book, Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: Make Money Ghostwriting Books, Articles, Blogs and More, Second Edition, shows writers how to break into the ghostwriting/content marketing field. And if you're brand-new to freelancing, I recommend Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets. It walks you through 10 actual articles for different markets; how I pitched, researched, and wrote them; and includes advice on contracts and building your business from scratch.