When making the change from working for someone else to working for yourself, it can feel like there are a lot of unknowns. How do I meet people? Do I really need to understand the market? How do I manage my time? Sometimes, it can feel as though there are more questions than answers.
To help you prepare to shift from employed to independent, indipop asked 11 business leaders and entrepreneurs: “what is your best tip for people who are shifting from an employee to a self-employed professional?” In return, they gave us their best insights & advice.
From building your network while in-house to preparing yourself for taxes, here are 11 pieces of advice that may help you transition from being employed to working on your own as a freelancer, contractor, or self-employed professional.
11 tips on shifting from employed to independent:
- Build Your Network and Business While In-House
- Expect To Spend Lots of Time Working On Your Business
- Join Freelancing Facebook Groups and Slack Communities
- Don’t Mistake Early Luck for Sustainable Success
- Schedule and Honor Your Workday
- Be Prepared To Market Yourself
- Evaluate Insurance Plan
- Get a Part-Time Assistant Early
- Define What Makes You Unique and Different
- Change Your Mindset and Stay Humble
- Prepare Yourself for Taxes
Build Your Network and Business While In-House
If possible, I encourage every employee to take some time to build a business while they’re working for an organization. You can easily scale a successful side hustle if you do it right. Quitting your job to become a freelancer the next day isn’t practical. It can take months to build a dedicated group of clients, and you might not have that time. Set a date for when you’d like to quit your day job. Spend that time growing your network on LinkedIn and taking on as many clients as you can fit in the evening and the weekends. You’ll be glad you did that once you are ready to go full-time with freelancing.
Amanda Cross, Amanda Cross
Expect To Spend Lots of Time Working On Your Business
As an employee, you spend all your time working in someone else’s business, which means you don’t have to spend time working to build the business. When you become a freelancer or self-employed professional, that has to change. Expect to spend 25% or more of your time working on your business. Time you aren’t actually doing the client work, it’s the time you are spending planning, marketing, handling administrative tasks, etc. Make sure to dedicate time each week to spend working on your business in addition to working in it. This is the most important shift you can make!
Bobby Klinck, BobbyKlinck.com
Join Freelancing Facebook Groups and Slack Communities
The number one thing that helped me when I shifted to freelancing was being surrounded by other freelancers. I joined freelance Facebook groups, Slack communities and went to in-person meetups. This meant that every time I had questions about freelancing, I could ask questions in these groups and get a lot of perspectives and good answers – often personalized to my situation. This was incredibly useful when it came to pricing and money. I could easily ask others how much to charge, what the market rate was, etc. The result was I was a lot more confident when it came to charging high prices, because I knew that it was fair and in line with the market rate.
Also, freelancers are always happy to help other freelancers. If you’ve got several questions, ask the group if anyone would like to hop on a call and talk about how they’ve done things. I’ve done this a lot and I’ve also offered advice to others. Hands down it’s the most useful tactic that helped me transition to freelancing!
Araminta Robertson, Parpera
Don’t Mistake Early Luck for Sustainable Success
I started freelance writing in 2016, but I didn’t quit my full-time job until 2017. Within just a few months of freelancing, I was making more than enough money to replace my full-time income (and then some). But I waited almost a year before officially quitting because I needed to see if I could sustain my success. I wanted to keep a safety net so I could see how work might ebb and flow over the course of a year. I wanted to build a repeatable, predictable way to acquire new clients so that if one client relationship ended, I could quickly find and onboard another client. I played the long game and it worked — I’ve tripled my income, work four days a week, and couldn’t be happier.
Alli Hill, FreelanceSpeak
Schedule and Honor Your Workday
Schedule and honor your workday. When you’re shifting from an employee to a freelancer or self-employed professional you need to immediately get your work schedule down. Since you’re switching from answering to your boss, to being your boss, you have to give “your boss self” the same respect you gave your old boss. Don’t make alterations or exceptions to your workday, stick to the schedule you made and honor it. By doing this, you’re creating a separation between yourself and your work self which is now a business and needs to be treated as such.
Tony Staehelin, Benable
Be Prepared To Market Yourself
Freelancers and self-employed professionals should be prepared to market themselves. Independent professionals have to secure their own workflow. This requires getting their name out to potential customers and strategic partners that can optimize their impact. The freelance economy is incredibly competitive, especially if an individual is trying to be within the top tier of earners for a particular industry. Self-employed professionals can gain an edge over their competition by creating awareness for their personal brand. Effective marketing is the cornerstone of generating awareness. Freelances and self-employed professionals will see their marketing efforts payoff as their business gains traction and they grow their customer base.
Katy Carrigan, Goody
Evaluate Insurance Plan
As a freelancer or self-employed, you won’t have the insurance benefits that your employer provides you now. When starting your own business, you may not have this on your list of priorities, but such protection is essential. How do you plan to protect your business, finances, and family in case of unfortunate events? Therefore, the best thing a person shifting from an employee to a freelancer or self-employed can do is revise insurance plans. Find out the costs associated with health, life, and business insurance. Then decide how the board would you like your insurance package to be. Life, health, retirement, or financial insurances may all be necessary to provide safety to you and your business. You cannot afford to operate without insurance.
Nina Paczka, MyPerfectResume
Get a Part-Time Assistant Early
I started out as a plumber, and following my entrepreneurial spirit set up my own business back in 2005. I learned early on that my time was valuable and it was best used on higher level tasks. Recruiting a part-time assistant to cover the phone, basic admin, and accounts is invaluable. Even though a lot of the tasks took just minutes, shifting between one task to the next can easily take up the best part of your day. Investing in support early on, will allow you to scale up your workload faster without it impacting on your service.
James Chapman, Bella Bathrooms
Define What Makes You Unique and Different
As a business professional, you quickly learn that in order to stand out and get the clients your business needs to survive, you have to be original. You definitely have to stand out if you want to compete with the numerous other professionals in your space. And, unfortunately, trying to be everything to everyone makes it easy for you to get lost. It’s very hard to market yourself if your targeting is not precisely focused.
So what can you do? Find something you do well or offer a new perspective on your business. Carve out that niche and go after it! If you focus on being unique, you will be able to attract the attention of potential clients and differentiate yourself from the competition.
Robert Lowdon, Robert Lowdon Photography
Change Your Mindset and Stay Humble
The one thing I learned from shifting from being a full-time employee with a fixed job, fixed working hours, and fixed pay, to being a freelancer for a short period before I landed my next job is that you must be willing to change. Change your mindset of taking your job for granted, change the mentality of waiting to be given jobs or projects, and learn to accept the fact that you are on your own now.
This means you have to start taking charge, start having more initiative, go the extra mile whenever possible. All the while, remember to stay humble as anything could happen. Your humility and being down-to-earth as a person could one day save you when you experience career difficulties. This way, you are able to adapt to future changes and uncertainties in your career no matter what happens.
Jonie Toh, Poh Ern Si Penang
Prepare Yourself for Taxes
Research how paying federal and state taxes will change for you. It can be a real shock to go from working off a W-2 to 1099s. Getting a set paycheck every week from a company automatically deducts for social security, Medicare and other state and federal taxes. Freelancers have to plan their tax burden ahead of time due to receiving their payment in full without deductions. Consulting with a tax accountant can help you with perspective and advise on what strategy is best for you in paying.
Ari Evans, Maestro