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Do you dream of leaving your regular job but aren’t sure when to go full-time freelance? Before ditching your steady paycheck, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of the freelance life.

Because even though working for yourself comes with a ton of freedom, it also involves a lot of challenges. So you need to be crystal clear on your goals and motivation if you want to overcome these difficulties and succeed as a freelancer.

Before taking the leap to freelance full-time, learn as much as you can about freelancing. That way, you can decide whether or not you’re truly ready for full-time freelance work before leaving the security of a regular job.

Is freelancing full-time right for you?

As someone who recently transitioned to full-time freelancing, I enjoy the perks of this lifestyle. I can work from anywhere, choose the projects I take on, and make my own schedule.

But I can also say for every advantage of freelancing, there are plenty of challenges. To be bluntly honest, a freelance career isn’t for everyone.

Freelancing can be risky 

While it could be your ticket to a higher income, it’s also risky. Some months you’ll have more work than you can handle and others you won’t have enough.

Finding clients who are willing to pay your rates can also be challenging. And fighting for gigs on job boards can be crazy competitive.

You need to find your own benefits

A full-time job offers support that freelancing doesn’t. Between paid time off, a consistent paycheck, and health insurance, a traditional job is more reliable.

Freelancing, while you have more flexibility, doesn’t come with any benefits. Instead, you have to allocate your own vacation or sick funds.

You also need to find your own insurance. And it’s on you to find enough work to pay for living expenses.

You might feel lonely

Freelancing as a full-time career can get lonely sometimes.

With a remote job, you have the same colleagues every day. You can communicate with them over the phone, email, or with a chat app such as Slack.

But as a freelancer, you don’t have coworkers; you have clients. For the most part, unless you know them personally, you won’t be having conversations beyond the scope of the project.

If you work well independently, this isn’t a problem. But if some of the best parts of your day are talking to your coworkers, this setup could feel isolating.

So even though freelancing will afford you the ability to work from home or travel often, if you aren’t happy day-to-day, going full-time with it wouldn’t be a good fit for you.

when to go full-time freelance

What does full-time freelance mean exactly?

In this economy, there are many types of employment. There are full-time and part-time jobs, freelance gigs, and contract work.

With full-time and part-time jobs, you work for a single employer. You have a regular paycheck and, for the most part, your job is the same each day. The only differences are the amount of time you work each week and whether or not you’re eligible for benefits.

The differences between contract jobs and freelance work are less clear. Independent contractors can either work for themselves or an agency. They typically work with one client at a time and charge an hourly rate.

Freelancers, on the other hand, are considered self-employed. Just like business owners, they pay their own taxes, don’t have employees, work remotely, and set their own rates.

There’s freelance work to be found in every industry.  In 2017, there were 57.3 million freelancers in the U.S. alone. That number is made up of writers, web developers, photographers, and so many other professions.

Is now the right time to go freelance?

Are you ready to transition from full-time employment to freelancing?

If you haven’t put together a portfolio yet, the answer is probably no. Ideally, when you make the transition, you have work lined up, a portfolio built, and enough savings to support yourself for a slow month or two.

Impulsively leaving your full-time position in hopes that you will find freelance work immediately is not a good idea. But if you’ve prepared for the transition by building a website or profiles on freelancer marketplaces, designing a portfolio, reaching out to clients, and saving some money, you might be ready.

Just like starting a business, a successful freelance career can’t happen without a vision and plan. It has to be more than a fleeting idea. You have to have strong motivations backing it because freelancing full-time isn’t always easy.

But if you have thought through the pros and cons and prepared accordingly, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running as a self-employed freelancer.

when to go full-time freelance

How to prepare for full-time freelancing

So how exactly can you get ready for freelancing before leaving your full-time gig? These actions will put you in the best position to find enough freelance work to support yourself.

1. Get clear on what you want

Write down everything you want from your new flexible career. Revisit that list often, because there will be obstacles that stand between you and consistent freelance work. Reconnecting with your overarching goals will help you continue to work hard and overcome challenges.

Make sure to create a detailed picture of your dream freelance life by answering questions such as,

  • Are you working while you travel?
  • Are you earning more than you did in your full-time job?
  • What industry are you working in?
  • Is this a long-term plan, or will you freelance for a few months?

Once you know exactly what you want, you can take decisive actions to make your vision a reality.

2. Build your portfolio

Before someone hires you — even for a small job — they’ll want to see samples of your work. Better yet, having an online portfolio is a great way to help people find you.

While creating a portfolio may seem overwhelming, you only need a few samples to get started. Fill your portfolio with your best work.

Add a link to your resume, LinkedIn page, and send it in every single pitch email you send out to prospective clients.

3. Know where to find work

As a freelancer, there are a number of ways you can find work. You can use traditional job boards, send cold emails, ask your network, and use job boards created for freelancers.

These are a few common freelance job boards:

You can also try using your social media to find work. Send pitches or find job listings on LinkedIn or even Twitter.

Taking the leap to go full-time freelance

Knowing when to go full-time freelance can be scary, but that doesn’t mean it’s the wrong decision. When I first jumped into it full-time, I remember waking up the next morning terrified I’d made the wrong decision.

To make matters worse, I’d chosen to take the leap the week before a holiday weekend. While everyone else was winding down for a break, I was frantically sending out my resume and writing samples. 

But in less than a week, I landed my first long-term contract for a job that ended up being one of my favorites. Since I’d taken the time to carefully craft my portfolio, I was well on my way to meeting my goals in under a month. 

As scary as it may be, transitioning from full-time employment to freelance doesn’t need to be difficult. By building your portfolio and making a plan in advance, you’ll be more than ready to start your freelance career.