How to Transition From Full-Time to Freelance

Photo Credit: Sex And The City

Photo Credit: Sex And The City

By: Austen Tosone

In this unpredictable age of media and publishing, more people than ever are trading in their 9-5 jobs for freelance life. Freelance and contract workers have a great deal of flexibility in terms of when they want to work, where they want to work and who they want to work with. It’s easy to see the appeal, but trading in structure for freedom is not always a smooth transition.

Whether you willingly decide to hand in your two weeks or you’ve unexpectedly been let go from a role for reasons beyond your control (in the last year I got laid off from Nylon and Interview when they folded their print magazines) there are some things you can do to make sure that you start your freelance career on a high note and that you’re making enough to live comfortably, especially if you’re in a big city. Here are five tried and tested moves you can make to stay productive, make money, and succeed on your own terms.

Get work lined up for when you need it

A big reason many of us go freelance is for the freedom, but in order to maintain that freedom you also have to maintain that income. As a writer, one thing I like to do is put feelers out to editors that I’ve worked with and see who might be able to email me with timely assignments, let me pitch a weekly column to them, or pay me a solid rate for an article so that I have a few different ways to earn money.

Create a schedule for yourself

But Austen didn’t you just say that I’m doing this for the freedom?? I know, I know—but hear me out. If you work just in the morning on Friday because you want to take the afternoon off to hang out with a friend (which you have the freedom to do), you might plan to spend part of your Saturday afternoon in a coffee shop (I’m doing this now!) to get done anything you didn’t get a chance to finish up. That way you’re still dedicating the time you need to your work, but you can shift things around as you’d like to.

Learn to work without an office

When you're freelance, more often than not you don't work out of a traditional office space and if you try to work from your couch 24/7 (though it is nice every now and then!) you might not be as productive as you would be sitting at a desk. Find a coffee shop that you love to work in or sign up for a co-working space like WeWork so you can get yourself in the right mindset to get some work done on the days when you have deadlines to meet.

Get good at setting deadlines and sticking to them

Whatever the deadline is, I always aim to get it done one day earlier. It may seem like you have all of the time in the world to get an assignment done, but you’d be surprised at how quickly the time moves when you work for yourself and without someone to keep you accountable (like a boss) standing over your shoulder, it really is on you to get everything finished. Setting earlier deadlines allows room for error and for unexpected things to pop up along the way.

Know when to stop working

This is one that I know I struggle with a lot—when you work for yourself there’s always something else that you can be doing. For me especially, I struggle to find the line between being on social media for work or being on social media for fun. There’s always more that you could do but remember to unplug and give yourself permission to mentally leave the office and go home for the day.


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