Making the move from working full time for a company to freelancing can be nerve-wrecking. How can you tell whether making this move is a good decision for you, when you should make this move, and what steps you need to take in order to make this transition successful? While the decision to make the transition is a highly personal one, there are factors that can help you should you decide to embark. Here are some questions you should be able to answer positively before you leave your full time job for freelance work:
- Do you have the experience necessary to commission big name clients?
- Do you have a firm network of potential clients?
- Do you have a niche area of management consulting expertise?
- Have you made many connections in your industry?
- What is your plan for finding clients?
- What is your niche?
Once you answer these questions, you should make sure you have 6-12 months of living expenses saved. Why? Going out on your own is hard, and even if you have a few clients out the gate, you will hit rough water as a freelancer. By having a cushion, you can reduce the pressure you will inevitably feel without a steady paycheck. You should also wait until you have made significant network connections - meaning you will want at least 3-5 years as a full-time management consultant under your belt before going your own way. Here are some tips on things you can do before you transition to freelancing that will make this jump easier:
- Connect with as many consultants, agencies, and potential clients as you can.
- Make sure people know who you are, what you do - even if you don't wind up working with them
- Always go above and beyond expectations with clients
- Make it your goal to fill your spreadsheet with contacts and potential clients
- Some companies will help you go freelance (you may even find that when you leave, that your former employer becomes your client). It's worth looking into this
- Decide on what kind of business format you will run (LLC, LLP, Sole Proprietor, etc.) and set up the legalities of your business
- Create a business plan
- Try to line up one or two clients
Once you make the jump, you will want to make the transition as smooth as possible. Try to leave your job on good terms so that if your past employer isn't hiring you, they can at least give you recommendations. Here are some more tips:
- If you are not good with numbers, or if you have the means, hire an accountant. You're doing business for yourself now and you'll want to have someone who knows how finances work in these cases - especially taxes.
- Use your own name as your website's domain name as part of your branding. It will help people who know you find you.
- Research the market prices for freelancers.
- Set up an efficient office. If you are freelancing from home, make sure you have enough file space and the optimum quality of equipment.
- Spend time learning about how to market yourself
- Tell everybody you encounter that you are now freelancing.
- Make sure to schedule down-time. Freelancers experience a lot of burnout
- If you don't have business cards, letterheads, a business name, and an identity, you should.
- Create a marketing campaign as soon as you can after leaving your company
- Do your research to make sure your rate is competitive
- While a short-term high paying client is great, look for long-term repeat clients