We’re deep into age of the gig economy. Lots of people are job hopping every few years for better opportunities, or opting out of the traditional workforce altogether and leaving their 9-5 job.
It’s a great time to market your skills to make money on your own terms. In fact, I always recommend that people who are busy and looking to make extra money consider freelancing because it’s flexible and you can set your own rates.
As a working mom in college, I didn’t have time or the energy to get a second job when I was trying to increase my income and pay off debt. I started freelancing writing on the side as well and was able to grow my income quickly.
After about 18 months, I was able to quit my job to freelance full time. Freelancing is not for everyone, but I love it. If you’re looking to go down the same path, here are some steps to help you turn a freelance gig into a full-time job
Choose a Sustainable Service and Niche
The key to freelancing full time is to find client work that you can do long-term. You should be able to establish ongoing contracts with clients vs. doing one-off projects.
Choosing to offer a service that is sustainable and profitable can help you achieve this. I chose writing because I know that there are millions of people who need quality content whether it’s for their blog, publication, or website.
There’s also a constant need for talented writers and this isn’t a job that can be completely replaced by technology. After working with clients for 18 months, I finally felt like my network and income was consistent and enough to support myself.
If you don’t like to write, there are plenty of other services you can offer. You can try a graphic design, programming, transcription, editing, photography, digital marketing or virtual assistant work. These are all profitable niches to work in that will allow you to obtain sustainable work over time.
Aim to get 1-3 clients to start out. If they are one-time gigs, ask if you can be considered for ongoing work and set up a contract.
Build Up Your Presence
Successful full-time freelancers have solid client relationships and a valuable network to back them up if they ever need leads or resources. Freelancing can be risky in the fact that you can lose your clients at any time.
This is why you shouldn’t put all your eggs into one basket. It also helps to build up your presence so you have plenty of leads and client relationships to ensure enough work.
Set up a professional website and create a portfolio to showcase your work. Establish a social media presence and attend a few networking events to gain more contacts. You can also join Facebook groups or local Meetups to connect with others.
Build up a solid reputation for your business so people know what you do and why they should hire you. You never know where your next client will come from. Some of the best opportunities actually result in people finding you and being impressed by your work.
Get Really Good At Pitching
Yes, you can build a solid freelance business based on referrals. However, it’s still important to know how to pitch. You may need to pitch a new client when leads are running dry.
Don’t be afraid to send cold pitches so long as they are strategic. Learn how to communicate properly via email with a concise and effective pitch. I’ve landed a few solid gigs from cold pitching.
Sometimes I pitch via leads I see on job boards while other times, I just reach out to website owners and editors. I introduce myself and say a few words about my experience along with why I’m interested in working with them. From there, I always include some samples and sometimes even mention a few ideas I had for their site.
I like to end pitches by asking the prospect to work with me on a trial basis or set up a call to discuss their needs in detail so I can close the deal. Create a list of dream clients you’d like to pitch over time and develop your own template so your pitches will be ready to go when you need them.
Price Your Services For Profit
As a freelancer, you’ll be running your own business. You need to take care of the actual gig work but you also need to do marketing, outreach, manage emails, send invoices and do accounting.
To top it off, you also have to pay for your own taxes and benefits like healthcare and retirement. This is why one-off freelance gig work won’t cut it if you’re trying to cover business expenses, pay taxes, and support yourself.
Tons of freelancers tend to undervalue their work and don’t charge enough. When you do work for low prices, you often don’t enjoy the project as much or may not even do your best work.
If you want to turn a freelance gig into a full-time job, you’ll need to charge enough to meet your income goals. Work backward and determine how much you want to earn each month. Factor in your expenses, taxes, and the time and effort it takes you to do the work. Then charge a fair price.
Remember, if you feel like you sold yourself short, it’s probably because you did. My goal was to earn $5,000/month from freelancing before I quit my job. Had I undercharged myself and stuck with charging just $50 per article, that means I would have had to write 100 articles per month or 25 per week – not really promising or sustainable.
Save Up For the Unexpected
Anyone who is determined and focused can turn a freelance gig into a full-time job. That’s not to say that there won’t be ups and downs. I’ve been through a lot of rocky situations where I’ve lost a client without notice. A few months ago, I lost one of my highest paying clients which made my income take a huge hit.
It takes time to build a solid freelance business and even then, anything can happen so you need to be financially prepared. Having a solid savings cushion can help you cover your expenses as you build up your business and get new clients.
I’d recommend freelancers save at least 6 months worth of expenses before going full time.
I’m so grateful for the gig economy and the opportunity to freelance. I’ve seen so many people turn a freelance gig into a full-time job so I know it’s possible. You just need to choose the right service and niche, price for profit, network and increase your client load, and cover your bases with savings.
Have you ever thought about freelancing full-time? What steps are you taking to make that happen?