Although I had been picking up bits and pieces before that, it was still a pretty scary prospect to be 'going it alone' without any job security to fall back on. If I didn't go out and find work then no money was going to be landing in our account. Not a fun thought to have playing at the back of your mind.
Although essentially I was only picking up freelance work in order to fund my book writing career, it was still going to form a large part of my working day and I needed to take it seriously. Going freelance is not ever an easy thing to do, but I am so pleased to look back and know that I did it, that it was the right decision and that I have been able to inspire other people to make the same move.
I've been asked for a lot of advice over the last two years about my decision to go freelance and how to make it work so I thought I'd gather my thoughts into this handy little post. This forms part three of my recent series on freelance writing, alongside How To Beat Writer's Block and Top Tips for Working From Home.
1. Plan ahead
Before you hand in your notice at your current job you should take the time to plan; work out how much money you feasibly need to earn a month in order to cover basics like mortgage payments or rent, food and other essential outgoings as well as the initial cost of setting up your business. Be sure to add a little buffer in there to cover the unexpected and don't be afraid of the final amount. You need to understand your finances in order to know whether you can feasibly afford to go freelance at this point in time. It also helps you figure out a game plan when you do go freelance; you'll know how much work you need to bring in, how many hours you need to dedicate to the business and so on...
2. Tell people
I was so lucky in that I already wrote this blog when I decided to go freelance so I had an existing forum from which to tell people along with other social media platforms and it worked. Within a week of leaving my job I had two friends come forward to say they wanted me to work for them and that has continued ever since. Although it can be nerve-wracking, especially if you don't know whether you are going to make a success of things you can't be shy about promoting yourself, in the early days it might be the only way you get business. Make sure you set up a website, get some business cards printed and tell your friends, you never know what connections they might make for you.
3. Gain experience
In terms of writing qualifications, aside from my GCSE's and A Levels I have no formal training in this area, simply what I know and what I am good at so in the early days it was really important for me to gain experience. This meant being reasonable (read: cheap) when it came to rates so that I could build up a client base and some all important feedback. Don't undervalue or undersell yourself but don't set the bar too high, especially in the early days when you need people to begin spreading the word about how great you are. Likewise, don't turn down jobs just because you don't fancy them. Even if you don't see yourself writing articles on argumentative topics long term, until you are established you should take what you can. All that said, don't be afraid to say no if something really isn't your cup of tea.
4. Set Yourself Working Hours
Certainly in the early days it can be difficult to find yourself a routine and you might find that you need to put every spare hour you have into getting the business up and running but be very careful about ensuring that you still have time for relaxation and being you as well. This is something I know all too well; high on the tide of success I did not plan my time well and ended up working all hours in the early days, often until very late at night, just to get my deadlines met. I almost ran myself into the ground and it was definitely not worth it.
5. Don't be afraid
Once upon a time I was taught that there was great stock to be put in finding a well paid job but having watched several people I know lose their jobs a number of times due to the recession and fluctuations in the job market I now say that nothing is certain. That job you have today could be gone tomorrow so don't be afraid to take the risk and give freelance working a try. If it all goes wrong you can always start sending out your CV again!