Articles - 17th October 2019

When is the right time to leave your job to go freelance?

Words by Eleanor Pilcher
Illustration by Will Francis

I have never known a freelancer who’s been able to say honestly when the exact moment was that they knew it was time to go freelance. It’s not a decision you can make overnight without previous consideration. It is a scary and uncertain choice, but one many of us are making day on day.

Currently, there are over 4.8 million freelancers in the UK and that number is ever-growing. But there are considerations that have to be put in place before anyone can consider going freelance. The most common consideration is finances.

Whilst freelancing may seem like a financial risk, you must remember that no full-time job is ever completely 100% financially safe either. In a full-time role you’re working for someone and trusting that they will reimburse you for your service at the end of each month via your salary. With regards to freelancing you’re in the hands of your clients but you’re in complete control of your finances, effectively cutting out the middleman and getting paid more frequently, if also more sporadically.

You also need less money than you think. It’s hard to believe but once you’ve covered your financial bases like home costs, food costs and sometimes travel costs, the rest of your money is entirely yours to spend and save. You’re no longer paying any kind of commuter fees, unless your freelance role involves travelling, for which you can factor this into your costs and deduct from your tax. You also don’t have to pay for lunches out or for £3 coffees on your way to the office. In fact, you can cut out the majority of you wasteful spending altogether.

Whilst at first finances may seem like a worry, if you can get two months’ worth of money to cover all of your major necessities saved prior to going freelance there is no reason why your finances should worry you further. If you’re proactive, have a client base prepped or a strong knowledge of a market that you know can provide you an income when freelancing, nothing should affect your finances negatively unless you’re unable to work.

So, before you decide to go freelance make sure you have this money saved up and you feel happy with the knowledge that you have a plan to cover your back if things go awry.

It’s not easy going freelance, and not every month is going to be filled with days and days of work. Everyone experiences dry spells, particularly when freelancing, it’s being prepared for this that matters. Before you start freelancing do your research and have a plan in mind. Think as you would if you were working any full-time role, have goals and objectives set for your future so you know what to aim for and have a plan in place for going freelance full-time. This will help you stay focused and also help to keep your passion alive, because if you’re going to go freelance full-time you have to enjoy it.

No one is going to hold you accountable if you’re not working except yourself. If you don’t enjoy it, it’s harder to stay inclined to work and if you’re not inclined you should not start freelancing full-time.

Sometimes fate plays our cards for us and freelancing can become the only choice after such events like you being made redundant, you becoming chronically unwell or you needing to support someone at home. In this case, planning to go freelance is that much harder, but if you see it as your only choice it is likely that you have thought about it in some capacity before and therefore have the passion built in.

When freelancing you’re building things from scratch so you need to have confidence in yourself and your abilities. Don’t do it if you think it’s going to be easy or it’s going to make you lots of money, the first few months will knock you right off the pedestal. No one ever had it easy going out on their own, but if you have confidence in yourself then you can get through it to the point where you’re busy and providing a healthy income for yourself.

There are many reasons for choosing to go freelance. People I know have left their full-time roles because they were sick of commuting, others have gone freelance in order to remain at home with their children or because the office environment is bad for their mental health. Others, such as myself, go freelance because of the need for some creative control.

My best advice is to try out freelancing prior to leaving any other career to go full-time.

You’ll need to educate yourself on personal tax, invoicing, client relationships and much more before you have a fully-fledged freelance business. Even freelancers have to pay taxes, and you don’t want to be caught out. This will also give you the confidence you need in order to build your clientele, develop your skills, discover your goals and ideas for the future.

But if you’re still not sure if it is the right time to go freelance, I have one final piece of advice for you. Start freelancing whilst working full or part-time and when you start having to give up good freelance opportunities for the sake of your full-time role that is when you shall know that it is time to go freelance full-time.

Take the leap, have a plan and be confident in yourself. When you master all three, you’ll have a successful freelance career in the works.


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