Elance Blog

10 Things To Consider Before Quitting Your Job To Freelance Full-Time

"I don't like my job." "The cube walls are closing in." "I'm walking out of this job right now." "I need to get out of here!" You know you've thought it at one point or another, and suddenly, the life of a free-spirited, self-made freelancer sounds all the more appealing. Before you rush and type your resignation letter, there are a few things that you will have to consider. Pamela Slim, a former corporate manager turned entrepreneur and author of the book Escape From Cubicle Nation, weighs in with 10 important questions you need to ask yourself before you make the jump.

I wish there were a secret formula to ensure that the freelance business you have been madly working on is going to generate enough income to compensate for your current salary as an employee, if not much more. Unfortunately, there are many, many factors that go into determining business success.

To get some insight into your readiness to say goodbye to your day job, read over this checklist and see how prepared you feel.

1. Chest-Bursting Enthusiasm

In order to birth your business idea, you are going to have to have a tremendous amount of energy and stamina. When you are totally enthusiastic about an idea, you don't have to worry about "staying motivated" or "dealing with procrastination," concerns voiced by many prospective entrepreneurs. Here are your enthusiasm checkpoints:

When you think about the work you do on a freelance basis, do you get a big smile on your face?
If you had your daily expenses taken care of, would you work on this business anyway because it is so exciting to you?
Do you see how this business fits into your overall life plan?
Would being successful in this business give you the kind of life you want? Would you be happy while doing it, not just once you were making money?

2. A Solid Business Case

Passion without a business model or viable market is a sure road to perdition. Business case checkpoints:

Have you prototyped and tested your idea with real people in your target market?
Do you have a viable business model? Could it survive if the market shifted?
Can you describe what makes you different, more effective or more appealing than your competitors?

3. An Eager Market That Has The Means To Buy What You Are Selling

You know that your business cannot serve everyone in the world. Who, exactly, do you want to serve? Do they have deep, important problems that your product or service will address? Market checkpoints:

Can you define your target market in clear and specific terms?
Do you know where they congregate in person, online, in associations or in the media?
Do they have access to cold, hard cash to pay your for your services?

4. A Money Plan

If you don’t manage the money side of your business, you are destined for misery. Financial checkpoints:

Are your personal finances organized and tracked in a systematic way?
Do you have 6-12 months of living expenses saved?
Do you have a solid plans B, C and D that you can activate if things don’t work out as planned? (Remember, they never do)

5. A Marketing Plan

You may know exactly who you want to work with, but if you can’t actually talk to them, how can you expect to make any sales? It may take a good, long while for you to build a relationship with mutual knowledge, respect and trust, so you must get started right away. Marketing checkpoints:

Have you chosen a marketing model and are you implementing it step by step? (Duct Tape Marketing, Action Plan Marketing and Michael Port are all great models)
Do you have a functional website that clearly nudges people to do what you want them to do? (sign up for your list, download your product, join your community)
Are you doing a handful of marketing activities consistently each month like writing articles, blogging, speaking, participating in online forums or inviting interesting people to lunch?

6. A Healthy Approach To Sales

I worked with salespeople for years and am convinced they are born with special (some say mutated) genes. Excellent, ethical salespeople are totally excited by the sales process. Most first-time entrepreneurs, on the other hand, feel like throwing up at the thought of asking prospects for money. Selling checkpoints:

Do you know what problem your product or service solves?
Do you know what your sales process is?
Do you lead your prospects through it or wait for them to take the lead?
Do you know how to ask for a sale?

7. Time To Create The Business

It takes time to get your business up and running. If you have to continue working as an employee while you develop your business, create a project plan and carve out time in your schedule to make steady progress. You may need to forgo activities that make you happy such as evening television, golfing weekends or excessive volunteering. Time checkpoints:

Do you have efficient processes in place for managing your email, tracking projects and accomplishing tasks?
Have you wiggled out of any non-essential obligations?
Do you know the major milestones you have to accomplish to get your business off the ground?

8. Support From Your Family

Starting a business is a very emotional experience, and you will need all the support you can muster from those closest to you. Family checkpoints:

Have you listened at length and without judgment to the concerns voiced by your spouse?
Do you have mutually-agreed upon metrics like amount of money in bank account, length of time to get business off the ground, amount of hair you are willing to lose before pulling the plug?
Have you clearly discussed the risks he or she will assume if you are married? (credit rating, co-signing for equipment or contracts, etc)

9. Support From Your Tribe

If you have grown up inside corporate environments, many of your friends may not be experts in entrepreneurship. You don't need to know everything about your new business, but you should know people who do. Support checkpoints:

Do you have active networks on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter?
Do you have at least one mentor, mastermind buddy, staunch advocate, technical expert and friend at your fingertips?
Do you regularly and willingly help others, share information and provide resources without being asked and without expectation for reciprocation?

10. A Mixture Of Faith And Mistrust In The External Market And A Backup Plan

I have now lived through two significant upheavals in the financial markets as a business owner: Silicon Valley in 2000 and Phoenix, Arizona in 2008. What I learned by living through the busts is that nothing last forever (both the good and the bad). If your business success depends on the economy staying the same for the next 5 years, you are doomed to intense moments of panic and possible financial ruin. Market checkpoints:

Have you learned as much as you can about the market you are operating in?
Do you have a positive mindset and constructive thoughts about your new venture?
Are you willing and able to look on the bright side of the most stormy market condition, even if it means radically adjusting your plans?

Pamela Slim, author of Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur, is a former corporate manager turned entrepreneur focused on helping frustrated employees break out and start their own business. For more information, visit her blog at www.escapefromcubicalnation.com.

Comments

Thanks for this - I couldn't help but identify with it having recently taken the plunge to escape "cubicle-city". It made me realise there are a few things I've yet to do to get myself organised, so double-thanks for the timely reminder!

One thing struck me as I read "A Healthy Approach To Sales", and that's the need to also have lots (!) of personal resilience and be utterly sincere in everything you do. The very best of sales people I've worked with seem to be able to take the knocks and bounce back - twice as enthusiastically - from the "No's". I guess it comes down to how passionately they believe in their product and in making the sales process a mutually enriching experience. Those that just focus on the dollars (sometimes) do OK; those that focus on genuinely servicing the needs of their customers (generally) do well.

Cheers .... jacquie

Good one! Thanks.

Thanks for these guidelines. I am also thinking to a freelancer in the web development area. But I am not sure that i can able to generate the income at least equal to my current monthly salary or income. So I got the good checklist before taking any decision
Thanks

This was so right on the money for me. I am currently planning my escape. I had thought through many of these questions but so many more I hadn't even touched on. The check points in each section are great and have gotten me thinking on a different level to make a success of not living in the corporate world.

Thank you, Laura

Terrific article! Captures it all. It was great to go down the list and check off all the various points and think, "Yep, yep, yep... did that... and that... and that... Hey, I did make the right decision to go freelance with Elance when I did a year and a half ago... I did! I did! I did!"

Thanks so much!

Kristine M Smith
Premier Provider at Elance

When I jumped into freelancing, I didn't even think about all these. Thank God, right now I am doing ok.