Making the Leap from Side Hustler to Full-Time Freelancer

Side Hustler

Many people start off freelancing as a side hustle while they work in a traditional full or part time job. Starting a side hustle is a great way to get experience in a new area or use creative muscles that you don’t get to stretch in your day job. In my previous life, I was an information specialist who searched market research reports and purchased scientific papers. I also handled all of the internal communications for our department including a newsletter, brochure, and website.

I used my knowledge from those job duties to find my first client, a computer software company that needed a blogger. From there, I was able to take on their Twitter account based on my experience maintaining my own Twitter account. I supplemented what I already knew with constant learning. I read articles about blogging and social media until I felt that I had a grasp on what my objectives were.

Keeping my skills sharp is important to me so I stay up-to-date with new posts on social media and marketing. I do this by adding websites that are good resources like Social Media Marketing World, Buffer, Moz, and Copyblogger to my Feedly. I spend 20-30 minute each morning reading the day’s articles.

When I started out, I was only earning about $200-300 per month for 10 hours of side-hustle work. That was not enough to support our household or match what I made in my full-time job. Eventually, I was able to make the leap from side hustler to full-time freelancer. Here are the steps you can take to do the same.

Find Your First Client

I’ve written about where you can find clients and how to find the best client for you. However, the first thing you want to do is find any client at all. This may not be a client you keep forever. The objective is not to find the perfect person right out of the gate, it’s to find someone who will pay you for the work you want to do. It’s a lot like dating, you need to put yourself out there to find out who is interested. What services can you offer right now? If those services are blog posts then check out ProBlogger Job Board and Upwork.

Expand Your Services

Once you have a few clients, you’ll want to spend some time thinking about how you can expand your services. Although I initially started by offering blog writing, I quickly learned that blog writing is one of the most time-consuming tasks for me. Some people, like my husband, are quick writers who get their ideas on the page and only read through once or twice for edits. I’m a methodical writer who takes around one hour to produce a 500 word blog post including several rounds of edits. Although I enjoy writing, it is not my best option for making money.

I am much faster at finding content and creating short, snappy social media updates. One update typically takes me about five minutes to compose, less time if it’s for a client whose business I’m already interested in. Whereas I might get $25 for an hour of blog writing work, I can get around $75 for an hour of social media work.

Market Yourself

The only way you’re going to increase your side hustle is to let people know what you’re doing. That’s true for online businesses as well as brick and mortar shops. No one can buy your product or services if they don’t know where to find you. Make sure you have a website with clear directives and engaging copy (if you need help, this is a service I offer). Using search engine optimization (SEO) will get your website to show up in the results for keywords pertaining to what you do.

Set a Date and Do It

Once you’ve gathered a few clients, you may find that you can work for a quarter of the time and make as much as you did in a traditional job. This is especially the case if you live in a low cost-of-living area like I do. The median household income where I live in Rockford, IL is $38,157. If you work remotely you have the potential to earn big city wages while living in a small town. One of the full-time positions I applied for, but did not get, was working at Buffer where pay started at $80,000 per year!

At the end of the day, you have to make a decision to leap into freelancing. It can be scary. There are no guarantees of success. Your income may vary greatly month to month. It can be feast or famine which means you need a financial plan in place that will help distribute your earnings throughout the year. You may need to save some percentage of your earnings and request retainer fees from long-time or recurrent clients.

Many people make the leap to full-time freelancer only when their hand is forced. They lose their job and scramble for something in the meantime. In my case, I desperately wanted to stay home with my daughter and was willing to take a risk to do so. Thankfully, my husband believed in me enough to support my dream.

Once you are able to produce 75% of your full-time income doing your side hustle, you should quit your full-time job.

After you do, you will have much more time to work on your side hustle and you can make up the other 25% of your previous income in a variety of ways. You could budget and reduce expenses or you could put in more hours. There are freelancers doing things like dog walking, nannying, and Ubering to make ends meet while they build up their client base.

The life of a freelancer can be unpredictable and sometimes nerve-wracking, but it is also freeing and empowering. You ultimately have much more control of what you can make in a year than you would at job with set parameters on raises and bonuses. Your success is directly related to how hard you work, how much you put yourself out there, how well you market your services or product, and how much you network. Finally, the best reason to make your side hustle into your full-time job is because you are passionate about it. It feels very different to work on something you care deeply about than to punch the clock and count down the days to retirement.

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