How busy freelance professionals are depends on how many clients want your services. Most industries like this experience ‘waves’ in business. For example, wedding planners are often much busier in May or June than they are in the dead of winter because most people prefer spring or summer weddings. Similarly, makeup artists often get more new clients during prom and graduation season than other times of year.
During slow periods, some professionals find scheduled jobs to make money between contracts. Many brand new freelance professionals also keep day jobs to support themselves while they build their client base. Working a day job while you get to know your local industry and promote your brand can be a very smart choice, but what if your freelance business really starts to pick up? Here are some questions you should ask yourself to judge whether it’s time to quite your day job!
1. Do you have a plan?
This might seem like a basic question. Why would you leave a stable job without knowing your next step? You’d be surprised how often excited entrepreneurs jump the gun! You should have a timeline and a list of goals planned out before you quit your day job. Do you know where you want your business to be in two months, six months, or a year? Do you know which steps you’ll need to take to get there? Don’t give your day job up for nothing. Put a plan in place and stick to it!
2. Can you make it happen quickly?
Even if you’re very careful with your savings account before you quit your day job, time is of the essence once you leave. The quicker you put your business plan into action, the smoother your transition from traditional work hours to just freelance work will be. Wasting time will also waste money and motivation. Remember that going back to your old day job might not be an option if you miss other opportunities.
3. What does your industry look like?
Research what kind of presence your trade has in your local area, or the area you plan to work in. Is the wedding planning business booming where you live because the area is trendy for young couples? Is work slow for makeup artists in your hometown because the population is mostly elderly couples working on their farms? Get to know what kind of demand exists for your service before you quit your day job.
4. Who is your competition and how are they doing?
Take a look at how other professionals in your industry are doing. Are they thriving? If so, analyze whether they’re successful because the market is good, or because they have a monopoly on the local area that could prevent you from succeeding. Are your competitors struggling for contracts? Think about whether their troubles are caused by poor strategies on their part or a lull in the market that could negatively affect you too. The success or failure of your competitors can be a good indicator of whether you’re safe to quit your day job.
5. What will your business launch look like?
If you’re letting your job go, you should already know how your new business will make a great first impression on your local market. It isn’t in your best interest to give up your steady stream of income in favor of sneaking into your new industry without letting anyone know you’re there!
6. Where will you operate your business from?
Before you quit your day job, you should know where the home base of your business will be. Have you set up an office that clients can visit? Will you work from home? The more organized you are about the ‘home base’ of your new business, the safer you are giving up your day job in favor of working independently.
7. Who are your clients?
Knowing who your clients are is absolutely necessary for starting a new business. You shouldn’t think about quitting your day job until you know what kind of people might be interested in your services, where to find them, and how to get their attention. Quitting your job before you know who your new clients are risks prolonging your time without income.
8. How will you market yourself?
Giving up your day job to work independently should be a long term investment. If you can, you should be marketing your services, image, and brand before you’ve even quit. The more effectively you market to your new client base, the less of a lag in income you’ll experience between quitting your day job and beginning your freelance work. Your marketing strategy should already be well planned by the time you hand in your two weeks’ notice.
9. Who are your mentors?
Do you have a support system in place, both personally and professionally, for when you quit your day job? Have you networked with mentors in your new industry or more experienced professionals who might help you? Throwing yourself into a new area of freelance work without networking can be nerve wracking. Find someone who is willing to give you advice in case your new business venture gets off to a bumpy start. Having that support might help you stress less about quitting your day job, so you can concentrate on the task at hand.
10. What’s your back up plan?
You should never plan for failure. Being defeatist about your new business won’t help you grow as a freelance professional. Even so, you should have an idea of how you’ll handle it if things don’t go your way. Do you have emergency money put away that you’ll depend on between jobs if your client base doesn’t pick up? Do you have a standing offer from your day job to resume your position if your business plan doesn’t work within a year? Remain positive, but stay in touch with reality as well. Prepare yourself for the fact that back up plans can be very useful for people who take the leap and quit their day job.
Quitting your day job to do what you’re passionate about takes courage and commitment. You shouldn’t be afraid of the idea, but you should prepare carefully. Ask yourself each of the questions above and really assess whether your freelance business is ready for the responsibility of being your only income. If you’d like to learn more about smart freelance business practices in your area of expertise, check out the courses here at QC Career School!