How to successfully transition from a 9-5 to a career as a freelancer

by | Mar 27, 2024 | Freelancing

When I made the transition from a 9-5 to a career as a freelancer, it was a bit of a disaster! I had reached a point in my 9-5 job where I just had to get out. Unfortunately for me, I decided to quit before I had any new income stream properly planned out. I do not recommend this. It made the transition to freelancing more stressful than was necessary, and I don’t want you to go through this.  To help freelance mamas avoid the stress of leaving your 9-5 without a clear plan, today’s blog post will talk you through how to successfully transition from a 9-5 to a career as a freelancer.

 

My story

To give you a bit of an understanding of how my freelancing journey started, I want to take you back to 2017. I had returned full-time to my career as a lawyer less than a year ago. I had two small boys – one aged two, the other four. My husband also worked full-time. Both of us had to travel for work and both of us had extremely demanding schedules. Our boys were in childcare 5 days a week, usually from about 7 am until 6 pm. Weekends were spent doing household chores and preparing for the next week. Sometimes I was even working at the weekends. It sucked.

There came a point where I realised that if things were to continue like this something was going to break. My husband and I were exhausted and at the end of our wits. Our kids were so tired, and their behaviour was deteriorating. We needed things to change. So I quit my job.

It wasn’t entirely on a whim. It was something we had been thinking about for a few months prior. We did have some money saved to buy some time without me working. I even had a couple of business ideas that I wanted to launch. I thought I could get those business ideas earning money fast, and I worked hard to make them work.

However, I was a little naive. At that time I had very little idea about how to run a business. I also had no idea how long it would take for those kinds of businesses to become profitable. This meant that within about six months of having quit my job, we were running out of savings. I was earning next to nothing from my business and I was at the point where I thought I’d have to go back to work.

Around this time, a friend put me in touch with someone who was looking for some help with their business. They needed someone short-term, who could do some work on an hourly basis as a contractor. They didn’t want an employee and I didn’t want to be one, so it was a win-win situation. I was able to work for this person as a freelance legal assistant and get paid hourly for the work I did. The work was such a saviour!

What I came to realise was that I could have avoided all of the stress that I had put myself through.  Had I only realised that freelance work was an option for me, I could have set up my freelance business before leaving my old job. I could even have started doing some freelance work to prove to myself that it would work.

Now that I have told you what not to do, I want to tell you how I would change things if I had a do-over. All of the stress I went through is avoidable for you, so let’s make a plan to help you do this the right way!

 

What I would do if I had a do-over

First of all, if I had known about freelancing, I would have set up my freelance business before I left my day job. I spent a lot of time starting a blog, researching business ideas, and learning how to start a new business. If I had known about freelancing, I could instead have spent my time planning what I would do as a freelancer and where I would find work.

Once I had decided on the kind of freelance work I wanted to do, I would have set about trying to find work. Initially, I would have tried to find freelance work quietly through my existing network (e.g. friends, family, former colleagues or former employers). If it was not in breach of my employment agreement (make sure you check yours), I would have tried to secure some work before I left my job. For me, this would have had to have been very small as I would have struggled to do much more.

Alternatively, I would have tried to line up some work that I could start after my notice period had ended. At the very least, I would have done thorough research to check that the services I wanted to offer were in demand and that there were people who needed help from someone like me so that I could have been confident that I could secure some work in a fairly short period.

 

How to successfully transition from a 9-5 to a career as a freelancer step one: plan your business

The first step for you to make your transition out of your 9-5 job is to plan your freelance business idea.

Planning your freelance business starts with a process of reflecting upon all of the skills and talents that you have and how you will use them to offer a range of services to other people in your chosen industry. I won’t go into how to do all of that here, but I have talked about this in a previous blog post, here.  I also run regular free challenges where we work through some activities to help you work out what kind of freelance business to launch. If you want to sign up just send me a message and I’ll add you to the waitlist for the next challenge.

 

How to successfully transition from a 9-5 to a career as a freelancer step two: find work

Finding freelance work before you leave your job will give you the confidence that your freelance business can work.

If you have the time, you could start doing some small freelance jobs while you are still working. This will truly enable you to test your business idea.

Talk to friends and family about your business idea. They might be able to point you in the direction of people needing your help. You could even contact former colleagues or former employers. I was offered work by two former employers, so this isn’t such a crazy idea as you might think!

If you don’t have time to do additional work now, you could look at signing up work for later. At least, talk to people about your business and ensure that the services you plan to offer are in demand. If you want to be a super sleuth, post in Facebook groups anonymously asking questions about your business idea.

You could also tell your current employer about your new business idea when you resign. They might even be prepared to send some work your way!

If you’re still stuck for ideas, read my 18 Places to Find Your First Freelance Gig eBook.

 

Put aside some cash before you quit

When I left my 9-5 job we had saved enough money that we could last for several months of me not working. This meant we had some time before we had to decide whether a business was going to work, or whether I was going to have to go and get another job.  To do this, we looked at how much we were spending and saved enough to cover a few months of expenses before I resigned.

I highly recommend putting aside some money like this before you make a call to leave your day job. This it takes the stress off a lot. If you’re not sure how much this to save, talk to a financial advisor who can help you work it out.

 

Have a backup plan

Sometimes the best-laid plans don’t work out. Before you go all in on your freelance business, consider what you will do if it takes you longer than you think to earn what you want from your freelance business. It might be that you consider doing some part-time work, or somehow cutting back your living costs. Have a plan for that just in case. This will make it less stressful should the situation arise.

 

Learn how to launch your freelance business the right way

I am so passionate about helping other mums avoid the stress I went through before I found freelancing. I want to help you to launch your own freelance business the stress free way.

Follow along with me on Facebook and Instagram to keep learning about freelancing. You’ll see all of my latest blog posts, videos, and free trainings to help you get a head start on your freelance business. You can also like to download my free 101 Freelance Business Ideas for Busy Mums eBook.

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