Lots of people dream about going freelance, but getting the confidence to go freelance is something else.
Starting your own freelance business can feel like a big risk. There are lots of unknowns and you’re going to have to rely on your own knowledge, experience, judgement and plain hard graft to make your freelance business a success.
But by putting the right plans in place, taking a few steps to be prepared for whatever hits you and having an ongoing plan, you’ll be able to keep your confidence levels up as you turn freelance.
As you grow more confident, the risks will melt away and you’ll begin to wonder why more people don’t go freelance.
Here are eight ways you can get the confidence to go freelance.
1. Create a business plan
All best laid plans go to waste, but the very act of writing out a business plan will give you a better idea of how your current business stands.
What product or service are you selling? To who? How are you going to reach those people? What marketing are you going to do? What resources do you need? How much will it cost to run your business?
There are loads of free resources to help you, but these are just a few of the more helpful resources when I was researching my own business plan:
- Gov.uk: Write a business plan
- Prince Trust: Business Plan Templates
- The Guardian Top Tips: How to write a business plan
While you may not need your business plan after a few months, this will give you great foundations for your business and identify the strengths and weaknesses of how you freelance business currently stands.
2. Give yourself a runway
In the world of startups, your ‘runway’ is how long you can survive as a business with the amount of money you currently have. For a startup in Silicon Valley, they’re looking at a runway of at least 18 months to give their team and tech the time and space to fully reach their potential.
But you’re not likely to have tens of thousands in the bank, so 18 months would be a true luxury. You’re more looking at 2-3 months as you’re runway, which is needed for a number of reasons.
There’s the costs of setting up your business. Company registration, hiring an accountant, building a website, getting business cards printed, buying yourself a laptop to run your business on – and more. There will even be hidden costs that creep up on you at the beginning of your business, so be prepared and have enough cash to last you a good few months.
This is especially important at the start of your freelance career. Many client’s payments terms are several weeks long, often 28 days and often even longer. So by the time you’ve worked a month, invoiced at the end of that month, it can be 2 months before you get paid for that piece of work. No last Friday of the month pay check for you.
Once you start to invoice clients regularly and have payments coming in, you’ll be able to relax (a little!). But having made a solid start will benefit you in the long run.
3. Perfect your pitch
Who are you? Give yourself the time to sit and imagine your to write down who and what you are.
What’s your ‘product’? What are you selling? What are your values? Why are you different to the next freelancer or small business?
This will be one of the main things you are asked – who you are and what you do. It’s sometimes known as an elevator pitch, called that because you should be able to say your pitch from the time it takes to get from the bottom floor of a building to the top while riding in an elevator.
Check out these (very literal) elevator pitches on Tech City News for an idea of how you could structure your elevator pitch.
If you can get this nailed down to a short and sweet few sentences, without sounding like you’re just rolling out a rehearsed script, you will get yourself across quickly and clearly to anyone you meet.
This means you can spend less time explaining your freelance business and more time explaining how you can help a potential new client.
4. Win that first client
I’d highly recommend that you use your old job as your first client (it’s how I started as a freelance consultant). But if you’re not in the position to make that happen, then winning your first project is a big step.
Nothing will give you a confidence boost for your freelance career than winning that first client. If you know one organisation wants to buy your product or service, then others out there will want to as well.
Some people are lucky enough to have a client in place and that acts as the springboard for them to set up as a freelancer, but not everyone is that fortunate.
Even if you do have that first client in place, it can be really beneficial to go out and win a second or third, so that you’re not relying on the income of that first project.
So get out there and win that first client. After all, it’s the lifeblood of your business.
5. Surround yourself with trusted advisors
Just because your a freelancer, doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. If you surround yourself with a range of people from different industries, you’ll be able to tap into their knowledge and experience for your own benefit.
Need to know how to structure your company? Ask your accountant. Got a finance question? Ask your bank manager.
These people are professionals. A short question to them will save you lots and lots of stress and worry over issues you don’t know about.
Even if it costs you a little bit to pay for their time, this will enable you to concentrate on running your business and keeping your clients happy, so will be more than worth it.
As a freelancer, you will likely be called on time and again for your expertise. Give it generously – after all, there’s lots of people out there who have given their time to help get you where you are today.
6. Check in with other freelancers
Your network is one of the most vital parts of your freelance business – and often the key determiner of how well you’ll succeed as a freelance professional. Do you have a large and well-connected network?
Arrange to go for a coffee with a trusted contact who you can have an open and honest conversation with about how they’re fairing. Are they finding work slow, or getting it in abundance? Where are they getting their new leads from? Which areas are they finding success in? Which areas are more difficult?
You’ll be surprised at how helpful other freelancers can be – there’s plenty of work to go around, you might be able to work on projects together, so sharing a few ideas and nuggets of experience isn’t a big deal.
And you’ll pay the favour back when you’re an experienced freelancer, just as I’m doing here!
7. Have an escape plan
If it all goes wrong and you’re finding work hard to come by, or freelance work is proving more difficult than you first imagined, all is not lost.
Having an escape plan can be as simple as getting your CV up to date and looking for a job to go back into.
There’s no shame in having tried and failed before going back to a full-time job. The experience you will have gained from setting up your own business and going it alone as a freelancer will set you apart from other candidates of jobs you go for.
8. Be Proud of Your Achievements
After you’ve been freelancing for a while, take a moment to look back at how far you’ve come and what you’ve achieved.
You may not realise it, but you’ll have made much more progress than you might have believed possible.
You built up the confidence to go freelance and made it happen.
All you’ve learnt, the new people you’v met, the projects you’ve worked on. All of this is down to you.
And if you haven’t gone freelance yet? Just imagine how proud once you do and start running your own successful freelance business.
Can you imagine how good that feel? If you can, what are you waiting for?
If you do have any doubts or concerns about going freelance, leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer your questions.