How to Start Freelancing While Working Full Time: Part 1 (3 steps)

As of June 2020 there were an estimate number of 1.1 billion freelancers worldwide, many are opting to do away with their traditional jobs and start freelancing. This option gives people around the world more flexibility to create a lifestyle that they love.

Many businesses are finding it more attractive to hire freelancers. This is creating amazing opportunities to use your skills and talents to start freelancing while still working full-time. This may eventually lead you to growing your freelancing into a full-time sustainable career.

Less taxes, fewer employee-related expenses, no medical aid contributions, smaller offices, the list goes on. These are only a few reasons why many businesses are looking to freelancer designers, developers, writers, and marketers to assist them with growing their companies.

So, the question is – how do we, despite our age, who want to be self-employed get started with building our careers? Well, one of the most realistic, viable and achievable ways is becoming a freelancer while keeping your full-time job (and the security that comes with it).

Start Freelancing While Working Full-Time (Part 1)

Before you jump into freelancing, you should be very clear on the reason you want to start freelancing in the first place. Once you have a helicopter view of your goals and you know how to utilise the minimal amount of time you have will be the deciding factors of the level of success you’ll attain with freelancing.

Read this guide carefully to help you on your freelancing journey.

1. Goal Definition

Without having clear vision of where you want to go, it becomes increasingly difficult to set goals – where there are no goals there is no focus. A few questions you can ask to help define your goals:

  • Do you want to freelance for extra money on the side?
  • Do you want to eventually make this your full-time?
  • Are you using freelancing as a means to eventually attain a different goal entirely?

Despite the eventual goal you want to achieve, this needs to be crystal clear. Only once you are sure of your goals can you start planning next steps & set milestones that will help you stay on track to becoming a successful freelancer.

As an example, lets say that you have determined that your goal is to become a full-time freelancer. You’ll set your own hours of work, decide who you work with, and make all the mission critical decisions. Now, what do you do to get there?

You know that you would have to get your freelance earnings up to a level where you can eventually leave your current full-time employment. Many people leave their full-time employment too early and end up having to stay with friends and family. One rule you can set is to earn at least 75% of your current full-time salary before considering freelancing full-time.

A great place to start is to determine your freelance income target, consider your living expense, how much risk you are willing to take and how much savings you are willing to use to sustain your day-to-day living expenses. Once you have determined this you can more accurately gauge how many customers you need on an ongoing basis. Very quickly you will determine how much to charge your customers.

2. Find a Niche that is Profitable

Let’s assume you’re a graphic designer, or you have attained skills in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator in your spare time. There are clearly many competitors in your industry who do the exact same thing. They are willing to charge much lower rates than you, despite all your efforts to lower costs. There are so many people around the globe with lower living expenses. They will be more than happy to accept lower paid gigs than you. The quicker you stop competing on price the better.

Racing with other people to the bottom for freelance jobs is simply not worth it, especial on freelance platforms like Fiver, Freelancer and Upwork. These freelance sites simply have too many low-priced freelance options. I personally recommend never posting on these sites. They are simply not for the South African market. Rather exhaust all the options in this blog and list on South African freelance platforms instead. Once you are focussed on competing on quality, the way in which you think about selling your freelance services will completely change. Start competing on value and not price.

Rather than taking any graphic design opportunity that comes your way, try focussing on infographics for blog sites only, or writing eBooks for a specific sector like tech companies. Pick an industry that really excites you and spend time and energy on becoming the best graphic designer in that smaller area, that is how you truly find the correct niche. You can then start charging a premium rate for that service once your are confident you have reached a higher skill level than your peers. After this, it’s the right time to start looking for the ideal customer.

3. Identify Your Target Customers

Equally as important as identifying a niche that is profitable, is being able to attract the types of customers you want to offer freelance services to. When you are just getting into freelancing its okay to take more of a shotgun approach to getting some customers. You can make a few assumptions of who it is you want to work for in the beginning, target these customers first, and once you’ve worked with some of them, you will very quickly gain clarity on whether to pursue similar customers.

Since starting with freelancing, my key focus areas are high-growth technology start-ups and business influencers with established brands. The main reason I’ve narrowed my focus is because I work well with these very similar clients, they both work in the same circles, which leads to more frequent referrals. By doing this my reputation is built within my niche.

Also this is difficult when you are just starting as it means that you will decline some work, targeting the right customers will benefit in the long run. You will soon have customers who are willing to refer you and rate your services and then you’ll start gaining real momentum.

Just taking a step back to focussing on value and not price, everything you delivery and all the work you perform, must point back to your ability to delivery top quality results to your customers. Like another successful freelancer puts it – do everything to make your customers happy and they’ll become your sales force.

Ask yourself the following 3 questions to help determine the best type of target customers:

  1. Which customers will find what I do useful?
  2. Which customers are prepared to pay my rate so I can reach my income goal?
  3. Who makes decisions in these businesses, what are their interests and can I connect on a personal level?

When all the info is gathered, you’ll be in a good position to write an email or reach out via a social platform that addresses the exact needs of the customer. When connecting with them you’ll be able to add immediate value.

I hope this has given you some food for thought. There are a total of 10 steps that I would like to cover over a 3 part series. See you all soon.