Leaving your current employer and going it alone can be a rewarding, exhilarating experience. But before you venture into the freelancing game, make sure you consider the following:
1. Have an action plan: If you've worked in the corporate world before, you've likely put together some type of business-related plan. This time, make the plan for yourself. Before you leave, map out what you are going to do, what your day will look like, your short and long term goals, details of how you will set up your home office, etc. Putting the pieces in place will make it easier when you do finally make your move.
2. Don't burn your bridges: Tread lightly upon leaving your employer. Have a beef with one or more of your colleagues? Now's not the time to air it. You're moving on to something else - don't make the last days at your company one where people remember you unfavourably. The world is a very small place and you never know when your paths are going to cross again.
3. Do your research: Make sure you have the answer to this simple question: "How viable is this decision?" Look into the particular field or industry in which you plan on freelancing. Talk to people. Read industry or trade reports. What's going on in your field of choice? What are your career options? Will you be able to realistically pull this off? Make sure that you are well armed and prepared for all contingencies before giving notice to your employer.
4. Have financial backup funds: Don't jump into the freelancing game with no financial cushion upon which to land. Have some money in the bank for unexpected emergencies and those "down" times when business is not booming. Taking time to establish oneself as an independent is often a slower process than many would imagine. Use the old rule of thumb and if you can, have six months living expenses available just in case. And pay off whatever debt you can, clear off the credit cards and be frugal.
5. Insure yourself and your family: Make sure that you have insurance - including life, health and property - checked off. Now that you will not be receiving benefits through an employee plan, the responsibility for having coverage will be on your shoulders. Investigate private insurance and benefit options, as well as life insurance, particularly if you have small children. You never know when and if you may need them and it's comforting to know that the backup is there, especially if you will be working freelance.
6. Network, network, network: Leverage your contacts and more. You likely know many people from your years of work who will be able to help you out as you venture into the world of freelance. Think of everyone you've crossed paths with in the past; not just the obvious ones such as previous clients and colleagues, but suppliers, friends of friends and more. Tell your circle of acquaintances that you will be freelancing and looking for new work opportunities. You'll be surprised at how many projects will come your way just by doing so.
7. Don't be shy: As a freelancer, you will have to check your timidity at the door. Part of this gig means having the ability to cold call prospects, ask for business, and to pitch your game. It's often hard work and is not for the faint of heart, so go into this new world with your eyes wide open and your game face on.
8. Fine tune your elevator pitch: If you can't sell yourself in 30 seconds then you won't be able to sell yourself at all. You should be able to encapsulate your abilities to potential clients within 30 seconds or less. A succinct, well-crafted and descriptive overview of what you can do for a potential client will put you ahead of the game - and win you some new business as well. Practice your pitch and be prepared to use it.
9. Find a really good accountant: The world of being an independent, freelance consultant includes responsibilities you didn't have before. In addition to a different yearly tax return, you will have to now consider saving all bills, receipts and various documentation something that is likely new to you, as well as being daunting. A good accountant will make all the difference in the world and will take away the tedious job of pulling together the numbers - leaving you to focus on your business.
10. Know your worth and set your rates: What's the going rate for someone in your field? Know this before you start selling yourself. Having these details in your back pocket will make it easier for you to be confident in providing your rates to new clients and backing them up with your relative experience. Don't undersell yourself. If you're good at what you do, you'll get it.
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