Fearlessly Freelance: 6 Expert Tips From People Who Successfully Took the Plunge


freelanceDo 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.

RELATED: Going Freelance: Why Everyone Is Doing It

  • http://thebrokeandbeautifullife.com/ Stefanie @ brokeandbeau

    As I’m building up my freelance work I’ve found putting a price on my time to be the most challenging thing. I don’t want to give up work, but I also don’t want to set a precedent of working for next to nothing.

  • Nick

    For me the most difficult challenge of working freelance is the work/life separation. It is difficult to be productive if your spouse believes they can have immediate access to you throughout the day to help with various tasks, or if your kids don’t understand that just because you are “at home” does not mean you are there to play with them.

  • Rana Campbell

    So useful! I’ve been freelancing since the summer and I’ve always found the pricing strategy a bit tricky. Anyone have any useful tips?

    • StephanieChristensen

      Personally, I base rates on the “all in” amount of work involved, as well as the intangible benefits (or drawbacks) beyond the number. I’ve written for clients that pay very well but don’t even list on my resume because they don’t help my career beyond money. Likewise I’ve written for others that have given me fantastic exposure–and pay horribly– BUT are a stepping stone to get to the next level. More importantly, what is the sum total of your time and effort as far as the client’s process: How extensive is the editing, do have to add tags, etc, enter the story itself into a CMS, interview sources. Lastly, how quickly does the client pay you, is the work consistent–and do you like working with them?

      • Rana Campbell

        Thx for these tips! do u have a site?

        • StephanieChristensen

          yep, wellnessonless.com