You’ve got a side gig. It’s cool. Way cooler than your 9-to-5. So cool that you’d like to make it your full-time hustle, but how?
Taking the leap from fully employed to fully independent freelancer can seem daunting – and it is challenging – but your dream job isn’t as far out of reach as you may think.
Here are seven concrete steps you can take to whip your side-hustle into full-time hustle shape.
1. Plan the financials.
You may already have a good handle on how much you spend each month, but if not, a lesson in basic budgeting is in order. As a freelancer, you cannot afford not to know how much you need to live without dipping into savings or spending on credit.
Got that covered? Next step is to consider your business expenses. That’s right: No more using the office copy machine, no more company-covered phone plan, and definitely no more employee breaks on benefits and taxes. Start crunching the numbers on what it will actually cost to be self-employed. This will help you figure out what you need to charge – check out Freelancer Union’s infographic on setting your freelance rates.
Finally, it’s a good idea to sock away enough money to keep you afloat for at least three months. As you’re transitioning from side-gig to full-time hustle, you may not have enough clients to keep pace with the increased stress on your financials. Do yourself a favor and build your own safety net.
If you haven’t started networking in your chosen side-gig field, start now. You’ll soon find that the strength of your network is the most powerful tool you’ll have at your disposal. Not only will a strategically planned network yield new gigs, but it also offers a sense of community and support.
One of the main aspects of freelancing that newbies overlook is the lack of built-in socialization that occurs in a regular office job. Connecting with people dealing with the same ups-and-downs of the freelance lifestyle is the best way to stay motivated and inspired. Start growing your network now by joining Freelancers Union – an organization of freelance workers that provides free networking opportunities and educational resources.
3. Get digital.
It’s time to start thinking of your side gig as a business – so give it a name and then reserve that name across social media. Buy your own domain and invest a little in creating a professional website that showcases your wares or portfolio. Make sure you keep your site, blog, twitter, LinkedIn, and any other social network you decide is appropriate up-to-date with pertinent information.
This allows clients to find you. Craft an online persona that’s easily discoverable by your ideal client – that means using keywords and staying in-the-know about industry trends. Here are some helpful guides for building your website, portfolio and social media presence.
4. Start riding a lot of elevators.
Now is the time to practice that elevator pitch on friends, mentors, and, even better, strangers! Start acting the part of a full-time freelancer and gauge people’s reactions when you respond to the inevitable small-talk favorite, “What do you do?”
Your elevator pitch should speak directly and clearly to a specific audience. Developing a niche is one of the best first-steps you can take as a freelancer: it allows you to target your marketing and communications for a higher return on investment, and positions you as an expert in your field.
Make sure everyone in the elevator knows why they absolutely must work with you before you hit the top floor!
5. Find a steady client.
Make sure you have at least one client that you can count on for work (and income) month-to-month. This kind of client will be easier to find once you’ve clarified your business plan and settled on a niche audience.
It’s ideal to have an on-retainer agreement with this client – meaning a signed agreement between the two of you indicating that this is a long-term relationship. This client will be the backbone of your income as you build your business. In addition to your own network, here are some great strategies for finding clients online.
6. Up your hours.
Yes, I know you’re still balancing a full-time job, but it’s time to maximize the amount of hours you’re spending on your side-job (without burning out, of course). If you want to make this a full-time thing, you’ll want to have an idea of what life will be like when your business is your baby 24/7.
This will be the key time to get all of the factors listed above in place – and chances are you’ll discover if transitioning your side-gig to full-time is really what you want to do.
Ready? No? You may never feel “ready,” but trust yourself and just go for it. You’ve got what it takes. I know you do!
Here’s how to take the leap.