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How to Transition into Freelancing – 4 Tips

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The leap from being a long-term employee to becoming a freelancer is pretty huge.

Huge changes in life are usually hard to make. This causes many people to not make many optional changes in their lives at all, even when it could really help them.

The difficulty in making the major leap from traditional employment to starting a freelancing business is especially pronounced if you’ve been an employee for many years or even decades. And it’s still true even if your freelancing business is a one-person show. One way to make the switch into freelancing easier on yourself is by gradually transitioning into it.

If you've been an employee for a long time, gradually transitioning into freelancing will be easier than going cold turkey.Click To Tweet

Freelancing is not for everyone. Some people just aren’t interested. Some are very happy with their current work life. Some hold jobs they love for which there is no freelancing opportunity. Some people are interested but, after learning more or trying it out for a while, decide it’s not for them. If you are interested and think freelancing is for you, you should still read these pros and cons about working for yourself before transitioning into this type of work life.

When you do start freelancing, you’ll almost definitely be easing into the money-making aspect of it without a choice. It will take a while to gain experience, work quickly and efficiently and build up a clientele until you have enough work and enough money coming in.

But money is not everything. Mindset is another important aspect of life. When you’ve been working for someone else for years, you’re used to thinking as an employee. When you decide to start a freelancing business, you need to think like an entrepreneur and CEO.

Gradually transition yourself into this mindset, and it will be easier than diving into your new freelance life head first. Here are 4 tips that can help you make the mental transition from being a long-term employee to running your own freelancing business.

Japanese bridge, a transition from one side to the other of a freelancing business


4 Tips for Transitioning into

1. Start a side gig before you quit your day job – You may not have much extra time in your daily life when you’re working full time, but it’s very important to squeeze out a few extra hours every week for at least a few months so you can begin working at the freelance job you want to be your future.

One hour a night a few nights a week and/or a few hours on the weekend will give you an idea of what your chosen freelance work is really like. It will help you see whether you enjoy doing this type of work.

This slow introduction will also help you become skilled at your new line of work so that when you do begin going at it full time, you’ll already be good at it and able to work fairly quickly. You’ll also have an opportunity to win a client or two before you strike out on your own.

If you’re looking for ideas for a side gig, you may want to read this post on being a virtual assistant, my advice for learning how to work as a scopist, things you need to know to be a proofreader, and this post on becoming a transcriptionist.

2. Adjust your “boss” mindset – If you start freelancing straight out of high school or college or somewhere else early in life, you’ll likely get right into the groove of being your own boss because you haven’t gotten used to any other way of working yet. If you begin freelancing after years or decades of working in a traditional job or career, it will probably be more difficult to wrap your mind around this concept.

While you will probably have hard deadlines, you’ll be working towards them on your own time instead of the 9:00 to 5:00 clock. This is really a positive because you can work during your peak hours and take care of the rest of your life as well as relax when it’s best for you.

On the other hand, it can be a negative for some new freelancers at first. Without having to be accountable to a manager, it can be difficult to make yourself sit down and get your work done.

If you have to, look at your clients as your managers to begin with. They’ve given you work and they’ve probably given you deadlines. Thinking of your clients as your bosses can be the transition you need to help you eventually accept yourself as your own boss.

World's Best Boss coffee mug


3. Adjust the mindset of your family and friends – People who work at home are aware that often family and friends don’t really understand the “working” part of working at home. They tend to focus on the “at home” part. They may not understand that just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you’ll be able to set your work aside and go hang out with them or help them out with something whenever they ask.

Taking yourself through a transition period from employee to freelancer allows you the opportunity to see which of your family and friends get it and which don’t. Those who don’t get it you can try to educate about working at home. Then when you start freelancing full time, they’ll already be able to understand that at home, you’re working.

4. Get to know your best working hours – When you’re working at your side gig, you’ll be able to see what times of day are best for you to work. You already know the times of day you’re actually able to work; namely, after you get your kids off to school or take care of anything else that must be accomplished in the morning. Transitioning into freelancing will help you learn what times of day you’re able to think most clearly as well as the times of day you enjoy working.

There’s nothing wrong with waking up at 5:00 in the morning and heading straight to your computer, or staying up until 2:00 in the morning working, if that’s what you want to do and that’s when you work your best.

Transition is the best way to achieve a lot of things. Tens if not hundreds of millions of people all over the world are starting their own freelancing businesses. Transition yourself into it and you’ll not only be able to do it – you’ll be able to do it better than the others.

Photos by: Jerzy Górecki and Pablo Varela

Sabina Lohr

Sabina Lohr is a lifelong freelancer turned entrepreneur who created World of Freelancers to help others discover how to work for themselves online and live the freelance lifestyle. She’s always really enjoyed the freedom that freelancing brings, including several years of working online while traveling and living abroad.

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