About the author

Darren Cronian, the author of this guide, has spent eight years securing remote jobs and building a successful freelancing business. His goal is to help people escape the office. Read more >

Having a sensible head on your shoulders is crucial if you successfully transition to a full-time freelancer. Here is how to start freelancing from my own experiences.

My advice would be not to quit your job until you have enough income from freelancing part-time, your debts are cleared, and enough money is saved for at least the equivalent of six months of salary.

Yes, some people quit with no plan, but most fail. Before reading the rest of this article, we recommend that you understand what is freelance work and how it is different than working for an employer.

This article teaches you how to start freelancing while working full-time.

How to Start Freelancing While Working Full-Time
Be Transparent with your Employer

Before we get into the recommended steps to start freelancing, we must consider what impact this will have on your current employer.

You do not want your freelance work to interfere with your full-time job; otherwise, this will cause issues, and you might get sacked.

Make sure there’s a clear line between the two, and if you feel there will be a conflict of interest, it’s worth raising that before you start to build your freelance business, especially if your employer’s clients could become your freelance clients.

Have Good Time Management Skills

Clear communication with the client about when you will be contactable and the deadline to deliver the work is critical to any freelance business.

Manage your time wisely. Ensure it’s split into sourcing new clients, working on client projects, and chasing unpaid invoices.

Working as a part-time freelancer will be tricky, so having a routine is essential. While commuting to and from work, use this time to source new clients, respond to inquiries, and chase up invoices.

Most of the work will likely be done in the evening and weekend but make sure you leave plenty of time to relax, exercise and sleep; otherwise, you will burn out and be useless to anyone if you are exhausted.

Package your Skills into a Service

Your new freelance business has to offer a skill that companies are willing to pay money for, and it’s vital that you are super motivated to provide good service; otherwise, clients will not offer you future work.

Grab a pad and pencil and sit down in a place where you can concentrate and write down your skills and hobbies, and interests – think of things you’re passionate about. Then, go through the list and see if you can package it up to a service you can offer.

Let’s pretend – you love helping people, are a good teacher, and have years of work experience as a fitness instructor. You could work with entrepreneurs and teach them how to be healthy in business, including one-on-one coaching and emailing them fitness routines.

Think about how you can package your skills into a service, which is super important.

Identify your Niche

Your freelance business must be within a niche. New freelancers’ biggest mistake is focusing on everything because they want their first client.

When you’re established, sure, branch out into other niches, but to start, focus. An example is freelance writing: rather than writing about yoga, music, travel, and technology, focus on one and become an expert.

Let’s pretend you choose to travel as your niche; my advice would be to go even deeper than that and be an expert on travel in India or another topic you can write about to help you stand out.

Please focus on the niche and be the go-to person for companies who want you to write for them and the media because this will help you gain attention. Think about what you are passionate about and experienced so you will not have to do any research, which is time-consuming.

Try to avoid going into a niche that is saturated unless you can stand out.
Let’s pretend you are a graphic designer and you enjoy creating logos.

Still, many people are providing this service (you only have to look on Upwork and Fiverr to see this, much of it low standard), but if you have a unique design style, it’ll help you attract potential clients’ attention.

Your competition is global – people living in countries where the cost of living is considerably cheaper than your home country, so it’s essential to focus on a niche in which you can stand out.

Create a Profile of Your Perfect Client

Now that you have assessed your skills and chosen your niche, the next step is to consider the perfect client’s profile.

Think about who they are, what type of business they are running, their struggles and challenges, their goals, and how you can help them achieve them. Creating this profile will help you with your content strategy to attract this perfect client.

Create Smart Goals

So, you’ve discovered your skill and niche and packaged it into a service you can offer clients. The next task is to think about your goals. A clear plan will help keep you motivated when the going gets tough.

  • What is the reason for you to freelance while working full-time?
  • Do you want to earn a specific amount from freelancing?
  • Is your goal to quit your full-time job?

Sit down and think, where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Listen to people like Gary Vaynerchuk, whose inspirational videos tell us to work hard, but it is not the only reason Gary is successful. Work 12 hours a day, but you need to be smart about how you are working to succeed.

Create a Business Mindset

Being a freelancer means thinking like a business, even if you are starting part-time. There are tax and business laws to learn about, especially personal liability and being financially covered.

It would be best to investigate the laws that could affect you before you start building your freelance business.

It would help to consider your pay rate or how much you will charge companies for specific service-led packages. It’s a mindset change because you will be so used to taking instructions from managers, but now you’re the boss of your freelance business, which comes with responsibilities.

Think about how you will invoice clients and manage your accounting.

Create a Personal Brand

The next step is to start your marketing journey by creating a personal brand. When a company searches the internet for your name, you want your website to appear, along with testimonials and a portfolio.

Having a web presence when you’re starting is vital to building trust and proving to potential clients that you are knowledgeable about your service. It doesn’t have to be a website; it could be Twitter, a podcast, or a YouTube channel you initially focus on.

Remember that you have no control over third-party platforms, so you should create a website.

Some freelancers have generated clients off a Facebook page, but potential clients stopped finding their content when the social network changed the algorithm.

The same applies to freelance job communities like Upwork. You hear it often when people are banned or suspended from using the site, and their freelance career is over because clients were only found on that platform.

Networking is Essential

All the freelancing work that has come my way in the last four years has been through contacts in my network for years.

It’s this network that is going to help you find work quickly and not have to rely on the likes of Upwork, where you will scrap for work alongside people who are working for a few dollars an hour.

Start Building Your Network Now

Think about where your target clients are online – Twitter and LinkedIn are great networking places. Find potential clients, start engaging with them, answer and ask questions, build a relationship, and ensure your bio has information about your freelance business.

Choose the Right Clients

Choosing the right clients is the tricky part of freelancing because, initially, you’re likely to take on any work that comes your way to start to make money. With experience – you will learn the signs that the client might not be the best fit for your freelance business.

I suggest initially calling them because you gather a lot of information about them and the business. Invoice 50% of the project cost before you start to work. Walk away from any client that does not want to pay part of the fee in advance because it won’t be a positive experience.

When a client approaches you about working for them, take the time to do your research. Look at their social profiles (you can tell a lot by consuming someone’s content online) and search for their name and the business name in your favorite search engine to find any negative reviews.

Go with your gut instinct, and if during the initial conversation they start to show signs that they struggle to highlight what work they need, or you don’t feel comfortable working with them, then walk away because it’s not worth the stress.

Realize It’s Hard Work Ahead

I hope reading this article gives you some ideas on the tasks required to start freelancing while working full-time. It will be hard work and stressful, but the rewards will be worth it if you achieve your goals.

Pay your Taxes

Paying your taxes is an entirely different game when you’re a freelancer, and it’s your responsibility that they stay current all year long.

Taxes will depend on your local region, and plenty of informative government sites will help you establish yourself as an independent contractor. Keep track of your earnings over the year and pay taxes quarterly to avoid a big payout at the end of the year.

Expenses you incur as part of business management are generally tax deductible, so save your receipts!

Ensure you understand the taxes in your local region to see if other deductions might benefit you. Keep a yearly list of everything you’ve purchased to make your business work.

Getting Paid as a Freelancer

Getting paid can be a real bear as a freelancer. One way to offset this is to have an upfront contract specifying terms and a payment agreement.

The last thing you want to do is do the work and then have to chase a client for payment. Batch your invoicing to be beneficial for your schedule so that it doesn’t take too much time away from other client work.

Being a freelancer ultimately means taking on much more responsibility than a traditional employee.

The plus side is that you have much more freedom and are more likely to achieve a beneficial work-life balance.

The downside is that you must stay on top of your finances like never before. If you love the flexibility of freelancing, then the admin work doesn’t seem so challenging.

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