Making the leap into full-time freelancing.
This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from Detective Mo White AKA Anonymous. They say:
“How do you know you’re ready to make the leap into freelancing — especially during COVID?
I’ve been freelancing on the side for a while and am feeling super uninspired by my day job lately. I don’t currently make enough freelancing to make it work with healthcare and such (thanks, America) but am considering making the jump.
What were your must-dos before jumping into full time self-employment?”
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Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.
Here’s what was said in this episode:
Comments on the previous episode:
[00:01:30] – Frankie
Hello, you’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast, where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie and this is Steve.
[00:01:40] – Steve
Hello! Yes. Each week we take a question from the Doing It For The Kids community. Do our best to answer it, but of course, we start each episode by looking back at last week’s episode. And last week’s episode was…
[00:01:51] – Frankie
…it was about a million social media things. All the social media questions!
[00:01:55] – Steve
That’s right, yeah.
Richard Berks got in touch. Richard said,
“Okay, disclaimer — I’m not an expert! But this works for me.
I’ve heavily lent into Twitter because it’s where my audience are and I like it there, most of the time. Personally, I schedule stuff. I use RecurPost which allows you to put posts in buckets, which then tweet out at set times so you don’t have to schedule each individual post. I top up my buckets each week. There’s other things like SmarterQueue and MeetEdgar, which do similar things.”
Yeah, I’ve tried SmarterQueue, that reminds me…
“I also allocate time every day to a) post something on the fly (usually something personal or something I’m doing that day), b) reply to comments, shares, and c) see what others are doing and comment on that. This way it doesn’t drain too much of my time. But I’m also consistent and it’s social media after all.
[00:02:48] – Frankie
Rebecca Lismer says,
“I live on Instagram. It’s where my people are. But I definitely need stronger boundaries sometimes.
My customers buy because I show them my process. Every time I make a rainbow blanket and show myself making it — BAM. Another blanket sale. Every time I show new fabrics — cue DMs asking me when the new high chair covers are going to be available to buy.
I focus on the social media I like. No Twitter, LinkedIn and minimal Facebook for me, just here for the groups. And I have no FOMO about it whatsoever.”
[00:03:16] – Steve
Just to say it occurred to me after we recorded that one, some people have freelance businesses without being on social media.
[00:03:24] – Frankie
Yes, very true!
[00:03:25] – Steve
But I’ll be honest, I think they’re missing a trick. I think the positives outbalance the negatives. But do what works for you. Don’t feel like you really have to do something if you really don’t like it.
[00:03:36] – Frankie
And also, a lot of people are taking an impromptu break from social media right now. I just feel like people understand that and you’ll come back thriving in a couple of months time when you’re ready, because everyone will know why. Everyone knows what’s going on. Everyone’s in the same boat. If you need to just stop for now, I think that’s totally fine. Go have a bath instead. It’s cool.
Our answer to this week's question:
[00:08:12] – Frankie
So this week’s question is anonymous, but it is in fact coming from Detective Mo White. It’s like Snow White but, Mo White.
“How do you know you’re ready to make the leap into freelancing? Especially during COVID. I’ve been freelancing on the side for a while and I’m feeling super uninspired by my day job lately. I don’t currently make enough freelancing to make it work with healthcare and such. Thanks, America. But I’m considering making the jump.
What were your must dos before jumping into full time self-employment?”
[00:09:05] – Steve
Okay, I don’t know whether I should say this at the beginning or at the end. Maybe I should say it twice…
[00:09:10] – Frankie
Oh, must be important.
[00:09:11] – Steve
You will never feel like you are ready.
[00:09:14] – Frankie
Yes. Rule for parenting. Rule for freelancing.
[00:09:18] – Steve
Yeah, it really is. If you waited until you were ready to have kids, you would never have kids. And it’s the same with going freelance. There are certainly things that you can do to set yourself up for success. But if you really want to go for it, go for it and you will figure it out.
Mo, listen up! Now, I didn’t do this. I wish I had… I wish I had had a buffer of cash.
When you are starting out as a freelancer, it doesn’t just go from nothing to 100. It can be a gradual build up. And by gradual, I mean it could be years of building up. And I wish I had done the sensible thing and had a buffer of cash. I mean, that helps in general anyway, because it helps you say no to certain things and yes to other things. But it is a really good safety blanket to have. And the best time you can build that up is when you are in full-time employment.
[00:10:13] – Frankie
[00:10:13] – Steve
Before you go freelance, it might be, if you’re freelancing on the side, that it’s the freelance cash that you’re earning that becomes the buffer.
[00:10:20] – Frankie
Yeah. When I went freelance I was made redundant so my situation was slightly different. But I was made redundant, which meant I did have some cash. I’m hesitant to say I had a ‘big’ buffer because I’d been only working for this organisation for like three years. I did not get a lot of money, but it gave me — even if not a long term safety net — it gave me a psychological safety net. It gave me that, like, “okay, I have the confidence to take a financial risk here”, essentially, and see what happens.
And when I went self-employed, as part of my redundancy, I was offered like various bits of training to set me up for that. And I did a course about becoming a sole trader and all that jazz. And he told me — and I don’t know if this is still the case, this was nine years ago — he was like, you need six to nine months worth of cash, realistically, to get going with this.
[00:11:16] – Steve
Another thing — you need an idea of where your clients are. Like, it helps to know where the hell you’re going to find work.
[00:11:23] – Frankie
Yeah, I think a classic that people fall into is — I definitely was guilty of this when I started! — is feeling like stuff would just come to me. To a certain extent, the work would come, but, oh my God, NO. It takes so much work to get the work. Mo’s been freelancing on the side for a while, so I imagine he or she has built up some sort of network of people that are interested in whatever it is they’re going to freelance in. You’re already ahead of the game in that respect.
[00:11:53] – Steve
And some people, when they’re freelancing on the side when they’re still ful- time employed, do amazing jobs of building themselves up as an expert. And in fact, sometimes I reach out to people for the Being Freelance podcast. Turns out they’re not full-time freelance, but it looks to the world like they are. I’m ready to hire them, almost! That’s almost where you want to be. Does it look like you’re open for business?
I guess, that said, if you’ve been freelancing on the side and you’ve already got some work coming in, one thing that can happen is that you might have a really juicy client and you might think, “okay, I’ve got that juicy client, I will quit my job”. But you want to be careful, I think, at the same time as not having all your eggs in one basket.
When I quit my job, I had quite a big freelance gig on the side and I thought, “you know what, that freelance gig is paying so much, it’s almost paying what I earn in my job so if I quit my job, I will have that and then I can find extra work on top of that and I’ll be laughing”. I handed in my resignation. I had three months to work out, right?
Within about three weeks, the big juicy client let me go because they had taken on new funding and as part of that, they had changed the way they were doing their marketing. And everything I was doing was put on hold and it was like this whole thing was whipped out from under me and I basically had nothing but little bits and pieces.
So that’s why I’m just saying — take it from me — don’t put all your eggs in one basket!
[00:13:27] – Frankie
That’s just a rule for freelancing, full stop, isn’t it?
[00:13:30] – Steve
But it can be tempting, right?
[00:13:32] – Frankie
Yeah. I guess if you’d been offered a big contract or whatever, it would be easy to think you’re sorted.
[00:13:39] – Steve
Maybe a key word you just said is ‘contract’. If it was a contract where they were saying, “yes, here’s work for the next three to six months”, then I would have been all right. But it wasn’t a written in stone contract.
[00:13:51] – Frankie
Well, that’s one of the things I was going to say, right, was — it’s taken me eight years to do like all the seemingly boring admin stuff that protects you! Ultimately, it’s taken me a really long time to get all of those things in place and in hindsight, I would encourage you, as somebody about to take that leap, to sort that stuff out as early as possible.
So, things like having a contract written up that’s specific to your business that you can give to clients. Insurance, right. I got professional indemnity insurance something like six years in and I had no idea how much I needed that until I did it, because I slept better the night I sorted that insurance! The weight, the weight was lifted immediately!
[00:14:35] – Steve
And it can be tempting to put those things off because you just get into doing the work.
[00:14:39.070] – Frankie
And you think It’s an expense you can’t afford, but you can. It’s like 20 quid a month. It’s really not that much money for peace of mind.
[00:14:56] – Steve
Another thing I wish I’d done before I went freelance — I wish I’d actually had a good idea of how my taxes would work.
[00:15:02] – Frankie
Oh my word, yes. Absolutely.
[00:15:02] – Steve
And therefore how I would be saving my taxes.
I wish I had set up a business account and treated myself like a business from the beginning — the idea that that isn’t *my* money. And I know I wish I’d used proper accounting software like Free Agent so that I could see how much tax I owed and when it’s due and tracked my invoices… Yada, yada, yada.
But honestly, the tax thing I ballsed up so bad.
[00:15:26] – Frankie
Yep. Me too.
[00:15:27] – Steve
It’s not funny and I hear it so many times. And what we do in the UK will be different, Mo, for you in the US. So figure out what it is and what you’ve got to do, where you are. Also, you’re right to worry about the health care thing and therefore you need to make sure that you factor that sort of stuff into your pricing.
It feels risky going freelance when you have a mortgage. It feels risky going freelance when you have kids. But if you’re in a country where you don’t get things like health care, then clearly you need to factor that in and make sure that you’re all going to be okay.
[00:16:05] – Frankie
I was going to say a similar thing in that my advice to me eight years ago would be — put your rates up. Like, what are you doing? It was crazy how little I was charging at the beginning when I started out. And I get that you’re going to be having to deal with impostor syndrome and confidence issues and going out against more experienced freelancers and not feeling like you can charge rates that are relative to them and all that kind of stuff. I get all of that.
But the thing about having really low rates is that you attract a certain type of client, and if you’re attracting a certain type of client who is usually going to cause you problems, then you do a good job for them at essentially very little money. And they are obviously going to recommend you to all their mates. And then you end up in a situation where you’re getting recommended to lots of clients that you really don’t want to be working for!
[00:16:56] – Steve
The circle of sh*te.
[00:16:58] – Frankie
[00:17:00] – Frankie
I think it might be worth thinking about what your day to day is going to look like. I don’t know how old their kids are, what their childcare situation is or whatever, but when you go into a job and you come home again, everything’s quite easy to plan, right? Everything’s like, “these are the hours that I work and these are the hours that my kids are at school” or wherever they are.
And going full-time self-employed is quite different. And maybe thinking as a family — I don’t know if you have a partner, I don’t know anything about the situation — but thinking as a family about what that change is going to look like in a practical, logistical, day-to-day way would be helpful to do before you do it.
As we’ve talked about on various episodes, there is some politics and some friction that can come with being self-employed when your partner isn’t and you have children. And maybe the earlier you talk about all that stuff and what your plans are and what your structure might look like and how your day might be, you can avoid some of that.
Are you going to work in a co-working space? Are you going to work at home? Where is that going to happen? Are you going to have to work evenings realistically? How does your partner feel about that? How do your kids feel about that? How do you feel about that? The earlier you think about these things, the less likely they are to cause friction and issues.
[00:18:12] – Steve
That is a great point.
There are some things that you feel like you must do but you don’t have to do. Things like get business cards. You might feel like you need to do lots of things, but you really don’t. Ultimately, you just need to get somebody to pay you to do some work. That ties around to that whole ‘you will never be ready’ thing, doesn’t it? At some point you just need to start because it’ll feel like, “oh, I could do this and I could do that, and maybe I need to get my photos done” and blah, blah, blah.
And the weird thing is, even though, yes — maybe it’s a great idea to have a buffer of cash and so on and so forth and yes — you should be as sensible as you can, especially when other people depend on you. But there is nothing like having to find the work hanging over your head to get your arse into gear to find the work.