7 Steps to Transition From Full-Time to Freelance

working freelance on mobile devices

If you’re the passionate creative type with an entrepreneurial streak, you might be feeling the pull of full-time freelancing. It’s a smart move when you look at the data on freelancers and the self-employed.

As of May 2015, there were 15.5 million people in the U.S. classified as self-employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That includes freelancers, contractors, and temporary employees – and the number has grown by one million since 2014.

It’s not easy to quit a reliable and secure job for the uncertainty of freelancing full-time – but the benefits of being able to work for yourself, from anywhere, and choose the projects that you love, is completely worth the risk. If more than 15 million people can make the switch, so can you!

With the above said, in this article we’re going to share seven steps you can follow to prepare yourself so you reduce risk and create the greatest opportunity for success.

1. Go Lean and Set Your Rates

The single most important tip for a new freelancer is this: reduce your monthly expenditure to the absolute minimum. Lowering your financial commitments reduces your risk simply because there are fewer expenses to cover.

There’s no doubt about it – your quality of life is more than likely going to take a hit. Just remember – this is a temporary measure. It’s much better to struggle in the short-term for the gains that come down the road. Ashley Fidel’s advice about cutting expenses in an article for The Muse is well worth a further read.

But what about the common question of how much to charge? Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer, but you at least have to make enough to cover your expenses and generate a profit.

2. Decide Where You’ll Work

Online freelancing grants you the freedom to work from anywhere, and there are no shortage of options. Your environment will have a direct impact on the quality of your work and productivity, so it’s important to choose somewhere comfortable, with minimal distractions.

Don’t get caught up in the daydream of spending the day traveling from coffee shop to coffee shop, making friendly with baristas as you pack away the profits. With all the distractions, coffee shops are terrible places to work.

This early on in the game, you want cheap, distraction-free options for getting your work done:

  • Home: Working from home has no overhead and it’s completely free. While there are plenty of distractions to be had, you are in full control of them.
  • Library: It’s free, it’s quiet, and there’s an internet connection. What more do you need?
  • Coworking spaces: For a fee, coworking spaces can be a decent option, and you may make useful business connections.

3. Create a Launch Strategy

Coming out of the gate all guns blazing when you’re sighting an unknown target will only waste time and energy. You need a basic launch strategy to help you get your business in order before going full-time.

A strategy can take a number of forms, and at the very least you should consider the following:

This strategy – even if’s only a page long – is your roadmap, and will help keep you on course once you finally begin your transition to full-time freelance work.

4. Treat Your Business Like a Business

In order to be successful, you need to take your transition seriously. The idea of working all day in your pajamas and showering on your own schedule might seem appealing, but in doing so, you’re undermining your success before you even get started. Consider these key points:

  • Have the right resources: Whether it’s software, a comfortable chair, or a cloud-based service subscription, you need to invest in the resources that enable you to produce quality work.
  • Stick to a schedule: While freedom is a perk of the job, a chaotic schedule is likely to negatively impact your productivity and performance. When you’re just getting started, set a schedule, and stick to it.
  • Don’t forget the legal side: Make it official – register your business, and make sure you understand the tax implications of freelance work so you don’t get a call from the IRS down the road. If you’re not savvy, find an accountant to work with.

Lastly, no matter what services you offer to clients, always have a contract!

5. Land Your First Clients

Hopefully by this point you’re clear about how you’re going to go after those first clients. There are an endless stream of freelance opportunities around – you just need to know where to look.

The goal here should be to get one or two solid client contracts to create a steady income while you grow your business. If you’re coming up short in that department, do what you can to keep the revenue flowing in as you grow your portfolio. Some terrific online resources for fledgling freelancers are Upwork, Guru, and 99designs.

Also, don’t discount good, old-fashioned networking – it’s one of the most cost-effective ways to get you and your business in front of prospects, and by following some good practices, it’s one of several ways to keep your business prosperous in the long-term.

6. Never Stop Marketing

Marketing is how you build both your brand and its visibility. You want your marketing to begin generating leads so that work comes to you, not the other way around.

The ideal is to be doing something every day to market your business, and besides email and social media, there are plenty of other marketing tactics – such as content marketing, leveraging video, and infographics –  that can educate and entertain your audience, and even turn your best clients into brand ambassadors.

7. Don’t Burn Bridges

Whatever you do, don’t destroy the relationship with your current employer before you go. Freelancing can be a big risk – even if you have your ducks in a row – and there’s always the chance that it might not work out.

Also, while you may have left your old workplace completely behind, your old boss could help you win new clients with a well-written reference or letter of recommendation, which can certainly come in handy when your fledgling portfolio is a little thin on the ground.


Building a business is hard work. From the first step, to building a strategy, to landing your first client, you’re going to sweat some bullets. But if you let fear paralyze you, you’ll never be able to make the transition to freelance life. With these seven steps, though, you’ll be well-placed to making the transition:

  1. Cut all unnecessary expenditures and set your rates.
  2. Find a distraction-free workspace.
  3. Create a launch strategy.
  4. Treat freelancing as a business.
  5. Build your client base through online job boards and networking.
  6. Market yourself effectively, so the work will come to you.
  7. Have a ‘Plan B’, just in case you need to take a step back.

What worries you about making the switch to a full-time freelancer? Share it with us in the comments section below!

Image credits: Pixabay

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