Thinking of going freelance? With the freedom and flexibility of taking business into your own hands offering an obvious attraction, it is the ideal solution for many where the typical 9-5 just isn’t working anymore.

Saying goodbye to routine and even more frightening, a steady, monthly pay cheque inevitably makes the early days as a freelancer rather daunting- something not to be hasty about.

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For those who are ready to take the plunge, the good news is that every career is suitable for freelance work. If going freelance is something on your radar, consider our six strategies and expert advice from Freelance Advisor on how to go it alone- the right way.

1.     Plan, plan, plan

When you begin, work comes first. Before you get started, make sure you have a well thought out business plan in place which will help steer you in the right direction and keep your goals clearly in mind. You’ll sleep better at night if you have some idea of where your money is coming from in six months or even a year’s time. Jon Norris of Freelance Advisor recommends switching to freelancing gradually. “Get a few clients and work evenings and weekends, and make sure you can support yourself financially before you switch to freelancing full-time.”

2.     Establish a network

Join freelance websites which appeal to your skills and work with your requirements- FreeLancer.com, Elance.com and People Per Hour are good places to start. Don’t forget about the contacts you’ve left behind. If you’ve left a nine to five, your workplace may still need help with projects you were previously managing on a freelance basis and at some point your colleagues may move on elsewhere. Jon adds,

“There are a million ways to find work, you just have to find the method that works best for you. Online job boards can be hard work, but there’s good stuff out there if you can find it. Going to networking meetings and getting referrals from fellow freelancers works best for me.”

3.     Manage your time

Be prepared for a lot of self-discipline when it comes to time management. Be organised, communicate your time restraints to your clients regularly and know your limits. You chose to freelance for a reason. Although it may be difficult to switch off and working extra hours here and there may be a requirement to keep your business going, it is equally important to have down time to keep productivity levels high when you are at work.

4.     Practice good money management

The main downside of freelancing is that there will be a rainy day from time to time that you will need to be prepared for. Always ensure you have savings for when projects are still a work in progress as after all it is your responsibility to cover overheads, equipment and everything else that comes with it. Another not so pleasant side of self-employment is managing your taxes so always factor this in. Where it is possible insist on part or advance payments.

5.     Build your reputation

Trying to match up to established companies as an individual can be difficult, especially in the early stages of freelancing where you may not have a portfolio behind you. A good reputation will come from hard work. Whether you focus your efforts on or offline, ask for recommendations and feedback and build case studies from projects which have proved particularly successful.

6.     Give it your all

With full control behind the steering wheel it goes without saying that you’ll be giving all of your projects your all. There will be times when you feel a little demotivated as after all, you are your own boss and you will have to work harder than a regular employee to achieve the same results.  Knowing exactly how it feels, Jon said,

“At first freelancing can feel a bit like balancing hundreds of spinning plates – you’ve got clients to look after, bookkeeping to do, tax to pay, deadlines to meet, etc., but before long all the extraneous stuff becomes second nature and you can start enjoying the real benefits – working when you like, how you like, for people you actually want to work for!”

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