Transitioning From Full-Time to Freelance
The transition from full-time to freelance work is no cakewalk. It’s not just an adjustment in income or commute time, but nearly every aspect of your life. It impacts your daily schedule, budgeting, networking, and professional relationships. It’s hard to break free from the habits of a full-time lifestyle, but you know now that staying within the confines of a full-time job won’t get you the career you want. You may have been cynical about freelancing in the past, but times have changed and so have you. In order to properly adjust to this lifestyle change, it’s not enough to just reorganizing your finances or set up an at-home workspace. Freelancing changes everything, so the most important change to work on, is your attitude.
YOUR FRIEND SAID WHAT?
Here at Freelancer Magazine, we love our friends and family. They support us, motivate us to do better, and often give their advice on our professional lives. While their insights and comments may be helpful, it can also be full of “shoulds.” You “should” invest your money here, you “should” be going after this job, you “should” buy a house here, or you “should” have reached this obscure life milestone by now. What you “should” be doing is listening to yourself and what makes sense for you. Take your friends and family’s sentiments into consideration, but as suggestions rather than commands. “When it comes down to it,” says Psychology Today author and Ph.D Suzzane Deggs-White, “no one is inside your head, but you. No one is living your life, but you. There’s no reason to give away ownership of your decisions to what… ‘others’ think you should be doing with your life.” It’s possible that freelancing isn’t really understood or accepted by some in your life. That’s OK. Taking risks in the face of doubt builds our resilience and thickens our skin. Regardless of the outcome of going into business for yourself, there will always be a net-gain of one valuable resource: experience.
IT’S BEEN TWO WEEKS, WHERE’S MY PAYCHECK?
Probably the biggest adjustment in switching from full-time to freelance is income. As a full-time salaried worker, it’s easy to get comfortable with the direct deposit of cash every two weeks. When freelancing you’ll probably be paid per-project, depending on the payment plan you negotiate with your clients. Money is magical and you want more. Who doesn’t? However, you’re just beginning to freelance. Chances are you won’t land too much work in this period, meaning you won’t make a lot of money. It’s important to have money saved up for this transition. Get used to not having a consistent cash flow for a few months (and maybe even up to a year). While it’s easy to fear the uncertainty of your financial future, use it as an incentive to do good work. The more you work at and develop your freelancing career, the more business you’ll generate. Take initiative: reach out to your network, pursue possible connections and build your reputation. This won’t be an overnight process, but you need to do something with all that free time you’ll have. You’re not knuckle-dragging your way into the subway every morning. You’re sitting in bed with a cup of coffee checking emails. Life could be worse. Instead of stressing about the negatives, work hard to expand the positives.
EMBRACE THE CHAOS
Having a full-time job means Monday through Friday, nine to five, you know where you’ll be. You never need to worry about filling your day. For freelancers, each day can have its own timeline. Every new day starts and ends differently and it may not always be useful to have a consistent daily schedule. Adaptability is key if you want to be a freelancer, so run your days as they come at you. Build a template structure that can give you a degree of consistency but isn’t too detailed that it inhibits fluctuation. If you’re a morning person then perhaps that’s when you get most of your work done every day. If you like to have a big lunch then maybe you take a sizeable midday break. If you really need to separate your work life from your home life then perhaps you create a “commute” of sorts; a series of activities you do in the morning and evening to transition you from play to work and back again. Don’t get sucked into the potential chaos of a “schedule free” life. See this as an opportunity to create your own schedule. The longer you freelance, the better you’ll get at predicting what a certain day will look like; but freelancing is not a straightforward adventure. The best adventures never are.
Make no mistake, this transition isn’t easy. It takes patience and humility, but it’s necessary. You can’t succeed as a freelancer if you don’t adjust your attitude towards your career and daily life.