Congratulations! You’re moving from your job to freelance writing! Maybe you’ve been planning this for a long time and have those darn ducks in order, or maybe you just got fired as happened to me.
No matter, the transition is both thrilling and scary. These steps will make your life easier.
Easier said than done depending on the circumstances. Panic doesn’t solve anything and panic is close to excitement. Take a deep breath or two or a dozen and at least become willing to move into being energized and eager. Rinse and repeat – it’s a good practice no matter what’s going on.
Honestly assess your finances
Evaluate where you are financially. You need to know exactly how much money you actually have and how much, if any, is coming in, and for how long. Get all this written down in a spreadsheet or some sort of bookkeeping program that works for you. (I love YouNeedABudget.)
If you qualify for unemployment, file for it immediately. If you aren’t sure, file for it anyway and you’ll soon know if it’s available to you or not.
Consider what the loss of benefits will actually do. You may have a 401K or pension – find out how you can cash it out if you decide to, including tax consequences, but don’t do anything just yet. You may not have to dip in – but do figure out how to corral it now that you’re no longer working for the company. Find out how long your health insurance will cover you after your job ends – ask. Figure out how you’re going to replace it.
Be sure you know how much money you actually need every month – your bottom line minimum that will keep you sleeping most nights, and the number you’re truly comfortable with even though you’d really like more.
Once you have all your numbers in order you’ll be able to decide if you need to look for another job, a part time job, or if you can afford to freelance full time right off. You’ll also be able to decide other things, like if it makes sense to move to less expensive quarters, what you should do about your car – sell it, keep it, etc.
If you’ve never put this kind of information together, it will probably take you something like eight hours. It doesn’t have to be done all at once. In fact it probably makes sense to do it over a week; you’ll want the other time to be spend marketing yourself as a freelance writer.
Start Marketing Yourself as a Freelance Writer
Even if you’ve managed your Job to Freelance Writing transition with a nice contract to write for your former employer and you’ve got six months or more in savings, you need to start marketing yourself and your writing from day one. Here’s roughly how to approach that.
Decide on your niche or niches. Don’t worry too much about this, just pick a couple of areas you know enough about to be able to write about them. You may find your perfect niche right away or you may have many niches over your career. The point now is to get started. Make a list of everyone you know in that industry and their contact info. Do the same with every company and then search Google, using the first three or four pages to include – this is your starting marketing database. Repeat for any additional category.
Get your website up. This is critical in this day and age – fortunately it’s easy and inexpensive if you don’t get caught up in overthinking it or over designing your website. You can hire me to coach you through getting it done but that may not be the best use of your money right now. Send a press release out then send an email to everyone of your contacts announcing the site and letting them know you’re open for business.
Order business cards. Okay, so business cards seem old school, but even young game designers use them because they work
Order Lori Widmer’s Marketing 365 and Jenn Mattern’s 30 Day Marketing Boot Camp for Freelance Writers. For about $15 total you’ll have access to the best of how-to market yourself and your writing available – assuming, of course, you use at least some of the material.
If you do these things in your first two weeks as a freelancer you should start getting if not hired, at least some decent leads.
It turns out transitioning from your job to freelance writing isn’t rocket science at all – it just takes some hard work.
Oh, and about that time I got fired? It was perfect. I was living in San Diego, but got paid unemployment on San Francisco wages. I was able to finish a book and haven’t had to have a job job since.
Does this make sense to you? What would you add? Tell us in comments.