I’ve received this question a few times over the last few weeks:
“How do I start freelancing?”
Well, there’s a simple answer and a long answer. The simple answer is – DO IT. But that’s not super helpful.
In an attempt to be as helpful as possible, I’m going to focus on 3 principles that will help you start freelancing over the next 6 months. (6 MONTHS? Yes. And I’ll get to that)
First – some perspective:
Freelancing is hard, but it’s also one of the most rewarding things in my life. The freedom to work on “whatever you want whenever you want” is essential to my happiness and well being. However, freelancing is also one of the hardest parts of my life, and definitely the “thing” that causes me the most stress. Freelancing shouldn’t be seen as a quick fix, an easy way out, or the path to infinite riches and ticket to absolute time and location independence. You can get some measure of all of those things, but not without being dishonest or just a ton of hard work.
My experience is that it takes 6 months to a year of hard work to start freelancing full time, meaning that your freelance income is equal to or greater than your current full-time job income. That said, there’s two ways to implement the following principles.
1) Save up enough money to cover your expenses for 3 to 6 months. This will allow you to quit your job cold turkey and immediately start putting in 40 to 60 hour weeks on your new business.
2) Start working on your creative endeavor as a side business in the 5 to 10 hours a week you’re going to carve out of your life. After 6-12 months of working part or quarter time, you can get to where your income has matched or exceeded your current income and you can then leave your job.
That said, if you absolutely HATE your job, or your boss, or your coworkers, or feel absolutely drained and don’t have the will to do anything else after a long stressful day, here’s what to do: suck it up, and change your paradigm.
No longer is your job a dead end and a death sentence. It’s now your secret money generating scheme that will allow you to spend time working on something you love, and that in 6 months time will allow you to have an entirely new career. That jerk boss of yours is paying you to one day be able to quit.
Just flip the switch, and view your job as your ticket to a new life. That little switch is going to make all the difference.
So here we go – the 3 top principles to start doing today in order to start freelancing in 3 to 6 months:
INCREASE YOUR CREATIVE OUTPUT
I’ve written about this before, but it’s important to mention again. Increasing my creative output has accounted for more income and new clients than anything else I’ve done.
A year and a half a go, everyone saw me as a sound guy, mainly because I spent a lot of time working as a live sound engineer at a local venue, and had done other things like working in the largest recording studio in town, and toured with a chart topping band. On top of that, my social media posts were all about the sound gigs I was doing, and the bands I was working with. So it’s easy to see why people saw me that way; that was my output.
When you want to transition into freelancing, you need people to see you as what you are trying to become. I instantly increased my output, doing videos for free or trade (like these music videos) and started instantly focusing my social posts to be more film centric. Within 6 months, when people saw me they asked about all the filming I was doing, not what band I had worked with or what shows were coming up. It worked!
So spend an hour or two every day working on your creative output. Write 1000 words, draw a daily doodle, take some pictures, write some lyrics, etc. Then let people know about it by sharing your work online. They’ll see your work get better and better, and start associating you with the work you’re doing. Soon enough you’ll be a freelancer not just in your mind, but in the minds of others.
COLLABORATE WITH OTHER ARTISTS
Working with others and collaborating on projects is the fastest way to expand your reach and grow your audience. If you’ve got 1000 friends and the others you collaborate with each have 1000 friends, you’re instantly 2x or 5x-ing your reach. You can’t get those kind of numbers on your own.
Not only does this help your reach, but it helps you meet new people that can lead to new clients. 90% of the new work that we get is due to people that we met working on projects with others. The other 10% is referrals and people who have seen our videos and want something similar.
So find some Facebook groups or reach out on your social networks to see who else is doing what you want to be doing. Find the local music venue and start playing open mics and meeting other artists. Join a book club and see who else is writing a book. Youget the idea.
GET PAYING CLIENTS AS FAST AS POSSIBLE
The biggest difference between someone who does creative things as a hobby and as a business is paying clients. So you need to get to that point as soon as possible. There will be other posts on this blog about how to actually do that, but the goal here is to get your first paying clients as soon as you can, any way you can. Get creative, and if you’re doing this after hours while still keeping your day job, you’ve got literally nothing to lose. Need help? Stop reading right now and write down as many possible ways to get clients in the next 5 minutes. Then start attacking that list, do one or two a day to see what works, then keep doing more of that.
Pretty soon you’ll be up and running, making some extra side money, and on your way to growing your creative work into a business.
2 thoughts on “How To Start Freelancing”
Another great article. Keep them coming. Step 1 has been my stumbling block so far… too many excuses + lazy = 0 additional creative output beyond my daily 9-5 job.
Start small man. Try and do something this week. Just an hour. Then two hours next week, etc. small steps are ok because you’re still moving in the right direction.