Do you ever think about shaking off the doldrums of office life by striking out on your own as a freelancer?
It’s an enticing proposition, to be sure. But the freelance life isn’t all monthlong vacations and days spent shooting off emails in your sweats and slippers. Going the self-employed route takes work—especially in the beginning, when you’re building up your network of contacts and ensuring that you have a steady stream of income coming in to reach your financial goals.
So how can you set yourself up for success from the get-go? We asked those who’d know best: freelancers who’ve had great success working for themselves—like a business pro who now consults for Fortune 500 companies around the world.
Tip #1: Have a Financial Plan From Day 1
Working for yourself can be a tough adjustment if you’re used to getting steady guidance and support from managers and coworkers. Bottom line: At the end of the day, whether you sink or swim as a freelancer is entirely up to you.
“There is no ‘safety net’ when you’re a freelancer—no infrastructure,” says Teri Aulph, a Tulsa-based author and business consultant for Fortune 500 companies. “So you have to be honest about your financial reality: What are your margins? Cost structures? Are you looking at your return on investment? It can be overwhelming, but having a plan is critical.”
So before venturing out on your own, sit down with a clear understanding of your finances and then draft a business plan (consult the Small Business Association for tips on how to create one). As with any major money project, you’ll want to establish goals and a strategy for meeting them—whether that’s acquiring a dozen new clients by year’s end, becoming profitable in the next six months or doubling your rates.