This post will help you with Phase 1 of the Black Freelance Foundations Workbook…if you haven’t started yours yet, download it now!
The real disillusionment kicked in for me about seven years into my career.
I’d taken the big vacations, tried hobbies ranging from cooking to kickboxing, and gotten a masters degree. One day it hit me that none of those things would ever make up for everything my job wasn’t doing for me (not to mention the awful things it was doing to me.)
While I’ll tell any and every new graduate I run into that they should consider freelancing, I’m still a firm believer that the best and most immediate benefits working as a freelancer has to offer go to workers who have a bit of experience under their belts. They include:
- Stress Relief
- Additional Income
- New Perspective On Your Industry
- A Refreshed Look At Your Career
- An Easier Step Toward A Career Transition
The best thing about being an experienced worker entering the world of freelancing is that you also bring some great benefits to the companies that hire you—I have yet to have a client who didn’t gush about the fact that I write, but that I also have practical knowledge about the work they need done. This means that (especially if you decide to offer auxiliary services like marketing, SEO, business writing, media, software development, etc.) the quality of your services will be a much easier sell.
A Few Decisions To Get Started
Freelancing mid-career does come with some challenges that can slow you down and cost you valuable time and income if you get stuck—something you likely can’t afford if you’re not fresh into the employment world. To help you navigate some of those questions, here are three major decision points you should consider to make the journey to successful freelancing as smooth as possible.
Deciding what you want to do…
You have four basic options when it comes to starting as a freelancer with some experience.
- Do exactly what you do now, just on a freelance basis.
- Take the knowledge you have and apply it to a different area in the same industry (like a nurse becoming a freelance blogger for hospitals).
- Do what you do now, but in a completely different industry (tricky)
- Ditch everything and start from scratch to pursue a dream or try a completely new career
Whichever of those you choose will depend on your income goals and current satisfaction levels with your work. Me, I liked my industry, but not my job, so I transitioned to writing within the exact industry I’d left.
The closer you stay to your original job, the less risk you’re taking—you’ll have contacts you can use to network and can use your knowledge as a selling point. If you’re, say, an engineer who wants to become a creative writer, you’ll have fewer skills that transfer, but that might be worth it to you if you’re ready to leave your current job and pursue something completely different.
Deciding when to start…
If you’re reading this post, your answer really is “now”. If your plan is to eventually freelance full-time, you’ll have to decide whether you want to:
- Ditch everything and start life freelancing now
- Start on the side and gradually build until you have enough clients to replace your current income
If I hadn’t been laid off, I probably would have gone for the safer option…build slowly until I had a solid income (but life doesn’t always work out the way you plan, right?) That would have come with its own challenges though, like the worry of my current employer finding out I was working on the side (some jobs don’t care, some frown upon it, some will sue you if you poach their clients.) I decided to forget trying to return to a normal job and focused on freelancing…it worked great for me and my life, but is something I acknowledge is too big a risk for many people to take.
This is a very personal decision that will likely take a lot of thought and discussion with people in your life.
Deciding how to start…
If I could do it again, I’d change one major thing about the way I started freelancing, and that’s how I approached agencies.
As a freelancer, you can try to run clients down yourself (you get paid more) or you can work through an agency (you do less work marketing and selling, but take a hit to your rates). Based on what I missed out on, I can say that agencies offer some great benefits including:
- Not having to sell (which is beautiful)
- Perspective on your rates (which can be hard to get a feel for if you’re new to freelancing)
- A sense of security and similarity to a normalized job (if that’s important to you)
If you like the personal interaction and sales process, working with clients can be great (I still do it for the learning experience with clients and projects I enjoy) and it’s nice to know that your relationship is based on what you do and not an agency who can drop you whenever they see fit (which…I honestly doubt happens much).
Chances are you’ve got a general idea of where’d you like to go with these decisions. If so, and you’re ready to move on, I want to ask you to sit down with this exercise—it’s a list of nine questions that you answer longhand on paper, or in a format where you can think slowly and clearly. These questions go deeper into the life changes that freelancing bring with it and are important in honestly evaluating whether the freelance life is (or could be) a good fit for you.
Got any questions about all the possibilities freelancing offers? Leave them in the comments and I’ll answer ASAP!
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