A year (ish) later: how I made the jump from a full-time job to freelancing

A little over a year ago I made the decision to give up the security of a full-time job and go it alone. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way that will hopefully help you if you're considering making the switch.

I think it's really important when you first start out to take an in-depth look at your finances. Once you figure out what your minimum income needs to be each month you'll get a much better idea of what your day rate should be. I had already been freelancing alongside my full-time job so had built up a list of clients and had a few potential gigs lined up.

My goal was to book at least two days each week so I could get the security of a regular income back. Once I had that I was able to block out some time for personal projects and growth, something I had neglected in the past. I also found having that added security (even though it was only a few days each month) gave me the courage to turn down the less appealing projects and start to look for more substantial ones.

That being said don’t hinder yourself by only looking for large projects, a lot of smaller ones could turn into something more substantial over time. Once a company sees the value you add they’ll be more open to increasing budgets.

Almost 60% of projects I’ve taken on over the last year were generated by leads from former colleagues and companies I had already worked with. There are lots of places you can look for work though, I've used Crew in the past (unfortunately they've now closed), Folyo, Working Not Working, Toptal and many more.

Don't forget self-promotion, it's super important to have an online presence, I totally underestimated how powerful it can be. Go and create a portfolio/website, publish your work on Dribbble, Behance, Instagram... Don't be shy!

Managing your time

This is something I've always struggled with. When I first started freelancing I found it really hard to turn projects down, this meant I was having to work during the evenings and weekends. This isn't sustainable, you'll burn out if you don't take the time to relax.

It's slightly different when I'm contracting but if I'm working from home I normally like to take a short break every 4-5 hours, whether that's playing PS4 or going for a walk, I find it really helps to refocus and improve productivity.

I also try to dedicate half an hour each evening for things like invoicing, chatting with clients and looking for new gigs.

Project rate vs a day rate, which works best?

For some projects, you'll find a set project rate works better than a day rate, the main advantage for me is you can ask for a 30-50% deposit depending on the budget which is great if you're having cash-flow shortages.

For the most part, I get paid daily as I'm doing a lot of contracting although sometimes that can mean having to wait up to 60 days before that money hits your bank account.

Getting paid on time

Gone are the days of getting paid on a set day each month like clockwork. I highly recommend having a backup fund in place, it will help account for any shortfalls if some payments come in a few weeks late.

It's always best to try and get clients to sign a contract before starting any work. Most clients actually prefer this as it gives both sides some added security. It should help to alleviate any late payments so you'll spend less time chasing clients. I use AND CO although there are plenty of other good alternatives.

Make sure you speak to the client about your payment terms and include them in your invoices, for almost all my work I get paid 30-days after I invoice.

Thinking ahead

Planning is really important and being able to schedule work for at least a month ahead has helped me keep my finances under control. It can sometimes mean you'll miss out on some short-term projects with a tight deadline but for me, the added security makes up for it.

How the last year shaped out

Although freelancing isn't for everyone it was definitely a good move for me. I've got the chance to work on some really interesting projects. I'm also not the most confident when it comes to networking so getting the chance to go into different offices and meet new people every few months has been great.

Of course, I'm super grateful for all the projects I've got to work on this year and all the people I've been able to work with.

Let me know if this article was helpful to you in any way. If you're a designer or developer looking for extra work or looking to collaborate then let's connect and hopefully we can work on something together this year!