How Freelancing Can Help Boomerang Millennials

My generation has been called the Boomerang Generation. People from the ages of 22-33 who went to college, graduated, and moved back in with their parents indefinitely.

There are people who enjoy their families so much that they don’t want to leave. There are also cultures that expect children to live at home until they are married. Then there’s another sector of Millennials who are too intimidated, scared, unsure or apathetic to strike out in the world.

The Boomerang generation has a negative connotation of not wanting to leave home and grow up. It’s been suggested that the idea of committing to a full-time job scares this generation. This is where freelancing can help.

Freelancing gives the Boomerang generation the freedom to move around and be a bit unstable while still earning an income and supporting themselves.

If you’re a Boomerang Millennial by choice or circumstance, here’s how freelancing can help you launch from the nest.

Freelancing doesn’t have to be a 9-5 job

If you’re hesitant to commit to a traditional 9-5 job then freelancing is a great alternative. Put together a budget of how much money you need to live on. You may be able to find decent housing and pay all your bills for less than $2000 per month depending on where you live. With some effort, you could make $2000 per month freelancing without working the traditional 40+ hour workweeks.

For example, if you’re a website designer, you could make $2000 per month from 1-2 clients. As a writer, it may take several clients or jobs to make that amount. A virtual assistant could reach that goal with 2-6 virtual assistant clients.

Figure out how much you need to make by using this cost of living calculator then use this rate calculator to figure out how much you should be charging.

Freelancing keeps you location independent

If settling down in one place freaks you out then freelancing could solve that problem too. As a freelancer, you can do your work anywhere. The term digital nomad refers to freelancers/entrepreneurs that have embraced a lifestyle of traveling while working. There are many successful freelancers who are traveling all over the world while freelancing. They support their lifestyle through their work.

Freelancing can get your foot in the door

If you having a hard time finding a traditional job with benefits, freelancing could bring you closer to that goal. You can gain experience doing freelancing work that would boost your resume while you try to find a full-time job. Sometimes freelancing opportunities turn into bigger jobs. Numerous freelancers have been asked to take on full-time roles within the company they are freelancing with.

Freelancing can build your confidence

Freelancing can build your confidence. If you didn’t have much work experience prior to college than freelancing can help build your confidence. You got a degree in something. Besides the skills related to your major, you learned valuable skills like project management, organization, and self-sufficiency. You wouldn’t have graduated from college without being able to get your work done. You are already qualified to freelance in your field. Start with small projects and work your way up. Set a goal of sending out proposals and applying for 2-5 jobs per week.

Freelancing doesn’t have to be forever

Freelancing has a less “sign an agreement and sell your soul” feel than the traditional 9-5 job. Yes, you can quit a full-time job, preferably with at least two weeks notice, but the stigma is greater. Freelancing jobs end for a variety of reasons, often not related to the freelancer at all. The project can have a natural ending point, the department could cut the budget, the company could decide to hire someone full-time, or they could give the responsibilities to someone already on staff. Quitting can be your decision too. You could finish up a project and let your client know that you don’t want any future work. The beauty of freelancing is that it is inherently temporary. As a freelancer, it’s easier to change your mind and pivot course, whether that change is going to a traditional job or continuing on with another client.

Freelancing can keep your life (relatively) the same

If what’s turning you off about the working world is getting up early, wearing business casual clothing, commuting, and spending all your time in a cube farm then freelancing is a great alternative. You can keep whatever hours you want, dress however you like, and work from home or anywhere else you want. Your life could look a lot like college, if you want it to. You’ll have the same freedom as you had when you were going to classes for a portion of the day and spending the rest of the day doing what you wanted.

Freelancing could be just what Boomerang generation needs to get on their own two feet and gain the confidence to participate in the working world.

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Need a Virtual Assistant Job? Try Subcontracting!

As a virtual assistant, you can find clients on your own or you can choose to subcontract under another virtual assistant or agency.

The process for subcontracting is simple:

  • Find someone to subcontract with
  • Discuss your rate
  • Sign an agreement
  • Get tasks and complete work
  • Invoice and get paid

Find someone to subcontract with

A great place to start looking for subcontracting opportunities is Facebook. There are many great virtual assistant Facebook groups.

Some of my favorites include:

Often someone in these groups will post that they need a subcontractor. You can apply and see if you’re a good fit for the company.

If you already know someone who has a virtual assistant or marketing business, you could reach out and ask if there are any opportunities for subcontract work.

Subcontract work is very low risk for the company or person participating. They are under no obligation to send you a set amount of work and can end the contract at any time.

That’s not to say that subcontracting work isn’t good for freelancers too!

It gives freelancers another income stream and helps diversify their client base. It ensures that one client cannot end your business by moving on. It gives you the opportunity to gather more positive testimonials/reviews for your website. It also allows you to peek inside someone’s else’s successful business to see how they run things, what their pricing structure is like, and how you can grow your business to their level in the future. Subcontracting can be a great learning experience as well as an income generator.

I currently have three subcontracting positions. One is with my former employer and two are opportunities I found in Facebook groups.

Discuss your rate

The person who needs a subcontractor must be making enough to pay your rate. If you want to earn $30 per hour, you’re not going to be able to subcontract with someone who consistently makes $20 per hour.

Don’t be afraid to suggest what you think you’re worth. Remember, on average VAs are making $15-30 per hour. When you’re first starting out, you may want to ask for $15 per hour, but don’t go too far below that. Keep in mind, there are VAs making six figures per year.

The average amount I’ve seen for subcontracting jobs falls between $18-25 per hour.

That said, I’ve had to turn down a few subcontracting opportunities because the pay was too low. In one instance, I was told that the person couldn’t afford me, but would circle back as soon as they could because they wanted me on their team.

There’s no harm in pursuing as many leads as you have time to follow up on. They can often plant seeds that grow into business opportunities, partnerships, or relationships in the future.

Sign an agreement

When you subcontract with someone, you should be asked to sign a subcontractor agreement. If the person does not ask you to sign one, I would question whether it was a legitimate opportunity.

Typically the subcontractor agreement includes information on your pay, hours, confidentiality and noncompete disclosure that prevents you from poaching clients.

Get tasks and complete work

You will be assigned tasks by either the owner of the agency/company or the client themselves. It depends on the agency/company’s policies whether you will have direct interaction with clients.

When you receive a task, complete it correctly and efficiently. You want to make sure that you are using your time wisely so you don’t bill the agency/company unnecessarily.

Be honest about your skills. If you don’t know how to do something, ask the VA for help or instruction. You can also offer to research the topic on your own time.

Invoice and get paid

The company/agency will have a schedule for submitting invoices and receiving payment. Most companies use Paypal, but you can ask if you’d like to use another method. I’ve worked with subcontractors that pay weekly and some that pay monthly. It’s more common to be paid monthly.

Becoming a virtual assistant subcontractor is a great way to learn about someone’s else’s best practices and procedures. The process will make you a stronger VA and give you an idea of what else you can be offering. I’ve been able to learn a variety of programs that my current clients don’t use that may come in handy with future clients one day. If you’re looking for more work, you should consider subcontracting.

 

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Freelancers, It’s Time to Raise Your Rates!

As a freelancer, raising your rates is an important part of your business strategy. Since you are your own boss, it’s unlikely that a client is going to offer you a raise because you don’t technically work for them. In order to get paid more this year, you will need to inform clients that you are raising your rates. The beginning of the year is the perfect time to send your rate increase emails!

As a freelancer, you should take the following things into consideration when thinking about rates:

  1. You pay your own taxes
  2. You receive no traditional benefits from clients (e.g. 401K contribution, paid time off)
  3. You may be paying your own insurance

Even as a young freelancer, you also need to think about savings and retirement.

Know Your Worth

Sometimes freelancing can become a race to the bottom, but it doesn’t have to be. There will always be someone willing to work for a lower rate. You can’t win the lowball game, you aren’t Walmart. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “fast, cheap or good – pick two”. Cheap and good are the least likely to go together.

If you know that you offer high-quality work then demand high-quality rates. If you undervalue yourself, no one is going to tell you so, they’ll just take advantage of your “good rates.” You need to feel secure in what you’re asking for. You don’t want to work for the client that tries to negotiate a lower rate because they’ve already placed a lesser value on your work then you think it’s worth.

Think about how much you’d like or need your annual salary to be. You can use this infographic to figure out your hourly rate. To find it, you need to divide your adjusted annual salary by billable hours per year.

It’s a good rule of thumb to increase your rates at least 5-10% per year to cover a cost of living increase. This could take a $20 per hour fee to a $24 two years later. It’s a subtle enough increase that your client is unlikely to decline it, but it will add up over time.

Raise Rates for Current Clients

There are a few options for raising rates for your current clients. The first option is to raise the rate at the work anniversary. Once you’ve hit one year together, you can let them know that your rate will increase from $X per hour to $Y per hour in 30 days.

The other option is to do a sweeping rate increase on the first day of each year. This increase does not take into account when you started working with the client. Even if you started working with them in November, they would be subject to your rate increase on January 1. Freelancers that choose this route often send out emails at the beginning of December informing clients of the upcoming change.

Raise Rates for New Clients

I would also suggest raising your rate for each new client you acquire.

When I started gaining clients I was accepting offers around $20. After a year, I wouldn’t accept anything under $25. Now, I’m not accepting anything under $35 and shooting for the $40+ range when pitching new clients.

I do this for two reasons:

  • My skills increase each year
  • My time becomes more valuable each year

My skills increase as I become more of an expert in my services. I pick up new methods and tools that increase my productivity and improve my offerings. I’m not the same quality of VA or social media marketer that I was two years ago. Therefore, I demand more.

My time becomes more valuable each year because of my increased skills and mentality. If I can earn $35 an hour, I’m not going to find it rewarding, exciting or useful to accept $20 per hour on a new project. My mental state will not be grateful and appreciative of my client. Instead, I will feel that I’m missing out on at least $15 for each hour I spend working with said client. I wouldn’t accept a client at that rate because I know that my heart would not be in the work. I would rather pass along the opportunity to someone at an earlier stage in their freelancing career who would appreciate it.

Phase Out Your Lowest Paying Clients

If you’ve already pitched a rate increase and a client can’t meet your new rates, you may want to phase them out.

There may be clients that you are willing to work with at a reduced rate. I work with a few charitable organizations at lower-than-normal rate. I work with them because I feel that I am doing some good in the community. Eventually, it may not make sense for me to do this because I only have so much time in the day, but for now, it works.

Raising your rates can be scary, but it’s an absolute necessity in the freelancer’s world. One of the best things about being a freelancer is that you have more control of your earning potential than in a traditional job. So, feel the fear and raise your rates anyway.

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Cold Emailing in 5 Easy Steps

Customer acquisition is a huge part of the sales process. You have to pitch to get new clients and you need new clients for your freelancing business to grow and succeed.

Although you may receive referrals through people you already know or groups you interact with, at some point you will need to find new clients. You want to reach people that would otherwise not hear about you. One way to do this is cold emailing.

Cold calling or cold emailing is a technique where you reach out to a person or business without an introduction or previous meeting.

Here are the five steps for cold emailing:

1) Get a contact list

Buy, find, or create a list of contacts that would be interested in your services. This list may be people in your niche, local businesses, or agencies. It may even be competitors! People doing the same thing as you may have overflow clients that they can pass along if you develop a relationship with them.

I created a cold email campaign for my newsletter writing service. I made a spreadsheet of all of the local Rockford, IL nonprofits and charities by googling “charitable organizations”, “not for profits” and “nonprofits”. I made a list of the contact person in each organization if their information was available on the website. If there was no contact person listed, I used the generic “info@organiation” email address.

2) Write your email template

You’ll want to change the template for each client, but some parts will remain the same. The introduction should not change much from potential client to client.

Your email template should include the following:

  • A short introduction about who you are (2-3 sentences maximum)
  • Why you’re emailing
  • A proposal for how you can help them
  • Why they need the help (using statistics)
  • A call to action **Call to action is a marketing term that describes wording that motivates the person to respond.

You’ll want to be very specific with how you can help them. If you’re a designer, talk about what exactly you’d do. If you’re a copywriter, tell them which sections of their website you would rework or that you noticed the key players in the organization don’t have biographies. You’ll want to customize your email to what they need. A general email offering a range of services will be too overwhelming and salesy for most people. People are busy and they want you to get to the point as quickly as possible.

3) Send to your contact list

Send to each person on your contact list. Be sure to use the person’s first name if possible. Otherwise, start the email with Hello or Hi.

4) Keep track of responses

I kept track of responses in a spreadsheet. Some organizations said no outright while others asked for a follow-up with my service fees.

Keeping a spreading of the status of your campaign will keep your organized so you know which organizations you already reached out to and when to send a follow-up.

5) Send a follow-up two weeks later

Two weeks after you initially email, send a follow-up restating your request and asking if the person had a chance to look over your email.

You’ll want this email to be very short. An example is below:

Subject line: [Service name, e.g. Copywriting] proposal

Hi Person,

I emailed you a few weeks ago about helping out with copywriting for your website. Did you get a chance to look over my proposal? Let me know if you have any questions or if you’d like to set up a call.

Best,
Name

Consider visiting in-person. Although this is somewhat out of my comfort zone, I know it can be helpful to go into a small business and meet the owner and explain your services. For this step, you will want to have professional business cards on-hand.

Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t hear back from many of the people you’ve cold emailed. Cold emailing has a success rate of ~20%. However, it is one of the least stressful and time-consuming client acquisition strategies. Once you’ve invested the initial time it takes to gather email addresses, and write the basic template, tweaking it and sending the emails is a quick process.

Bonus – Cold Email Template

Here’s an example of a cold email that I’ve sent out to local organizations that are not currently publishing a newsletter. Thus far I’ve had a 25% success rate in getting new customers (I must note, my sample size is very small).

Subject line: Email newsletter for Org Name

Hi

Nice to meet you! I’m a local marketing specialist who wanted to reach out and offer my services to your organization. As I browsed your website, I noticed that [Organization name] is not currently sending out an email newsletter.

I think you would see some real benefits from a focused communications strategy. I have worked in social media marketing, strategy, and content creation for several years and started my own business in 2015. I’ve designed and written email newsletters for several clients. You can see some of my work on [client’s] newsletter (link) and on [other client’s] newsletter (link). I’m a lifelong resident of the community and I have a special interest in charity and social work. You can find out more about me on my website (link).

Email newsletters are so important for keeping the lines of communication open with your supporters and volunteers. In a recent Nielsen Norman survey when asked to opt-in to receive updates from a company only 10% elected to do so through Facebook and 90% chose email newsletters. Newsletters can be weekly or monthly depending on your goals.

If you’re interested in hearing more, I’d love to chat with you.

Thank you for your time,

Name
Phone number
Email address
Website

cold-emailing

 

Mama’s Favorites: This Week’s Best Content (Week of 10/3/16)

This is a weekly collection of content that I found valuable, interesting, entertaining – or all three! Topics mostly center on freelancing, marketing, and parenting with occasional wild cards thrown in. If you like what I’m sharing, follow me on Twitter for more content suggestions.

Freelancing

Caroline Beaton discusses her journey from full-time employee to full-time freelancer. She made a series of smart, strategic moves to ensure that she could always support herself.

Ryan Robinson shares his tips on how to write an effective pitch for a freelancing client. These suggestions secured him a $500 per post gig!

Julio Vincent Gambuto wants you to be a freelancer who actually makes money. He has some fantastic ideas for how to stay lucrative.

Marketing

Your customer has 30 different needs, does your product or service meet them? Larry Kim talks about the attributes driving customer purchases. Which ones can you tap into?

Email marketing has many benefits including boosting your website’s SEO. Jayson DeMers explains how regular email communication can improve your rankings.

Kevan Lee walks through the process of getting verified on Twitter. A verified account can boost the perception of your online presence, but you need to be a somewhat public figure to be approved.

Parenting

A round-up of 45 hilarious “parenting tips” ‘from Twitter. “Never take a toddler’s word for it” was one of my favorites.

How do Jewish mothers approach parenthood? The Chicago Tribune has four suggestions and I love the one about encouraging geekiness.

Hobbies

Cat Noone talks about how she got started hand-lettering. This is a skill I plan on learning.

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What I’ve Learned from Two Years of Working at Home

This August was my second anniversary of working from home. I left my job as an Information Specialist in a biotechnology company’s corporate library in 2014 after the birth of my daughter and began working at Zirtual as a virtual assistant. After six months there, I left to start my own marketing company. Now I mostly work as a marketing specialist, but I also do some virtual assistant work and contract work with my former biotechnology employer.

I’ve learned a lot while working from home. Some days are great and others are not, but I could say the same thing about a traditional job. Here are the most important things I’ve learned from working from home for the past two years.

  • Organization is king

In my previous job, I was used to having systems in place. We had a metric board where we kept track of weekly projects and a daily stand-up meeting to discuss outstanding work. I took those skills to my own business and set up schedules and an organization system.

I track all of my projects in Wunderlist and Asana. Most of my clients are in Wunderlist. When someone assigns me a task, I add it to their list with the agreed upon deadline. Personal work, like this blog and The Sturm Agency website, is in Asana. I like both platforms for different reasons. Wunderlist is perfect for client’s work because it’s simple and easy to use. However, I also love Asana’s interface and prefer to keep my personal work organized there.

I timeblock my Google calendar. My calendar is blocked off during my working hours (6-9 am, 12-2 pm, 7-9 pm, and some time on the weekends). Each day I check my client’s requests and work on them for roughly one hour per day except for a client who has a time-based agreement with me. Timeblocking allows me to check in with each client Monday through Friday. Having things set up this way ensures that I never neglect a client for a few days and come back to missed projects or admin tasks. Sometimes the client won’t have anything for me to to do so I’ll move on to the next person. I started this system when I was working full time at Zirtual and managing 8-10 clients. I don’t have that many clients anymore, but the system still works.

I write a daily to-do list in my notebook each day. Every morning I go into Wunderlist and Asana, check which tasks I need to get done that day, and write a to-do list in a paper notebook. I like doing this because crossing things off a list gives me a sense of satisfaction that clicking a button doesn’t. I only write down the five or six most important tasks for the day. I can’t get more than that done on a given day and seeing a 20+ item list stresses me out.

I check what I accomplished and what’s outstanding each evening. Before I go to bed, I check what needs to be done the next day and review the list of things I accomplished that day. Before doing this, I was having a hard time falling asleep because I was running through my to-do list over and over in my mind. Reading a list of my daily achievements makes me feel like I accomplished something even on my worst days. This five-minute routine has helped me fall asleep more quickly.

I track all of my time in 17hats and Toggl. For clients that I invoice, I use 17hats. For everyone else, I track in Toggl. I even track the time I spend writing this blog. It helps because I have a visual guide that I can review at the end of the week.

  • Take a day off

During my first year freelancing, I worked seven days a week. I still have not taken a proper vacation where I stop client work for a week.

That said, I need to have one day off per week that does not involve doing work for anyone else. That doesn’t mean I don’t work on my personal projects, set up my social media feeds or write blogs, it just means that I don’t work on anyone else’s stuff. Every night, it’s my goal to stop computer work an hour before I go to bed so I can read books and relax.

Typically, I don’t work on Saturdays at all. We spend time together as a family during the day. In the evening, my husband and I rent a movie or watch one of our shows.

  • Your word is gold

Some people have a negative perception of freelancers or those who work from home. They think that remote workers are spending their days watching TV and napping. There’s even a Kraft Macaroni and Cheese commercial which mentions “working from home fakers.” Unfortunately, I’ve found that there are some freelancers who are flaky and unreachable. I’ve had to work with some web designers who took 3-4 emails about the same topic before they’d respond. I recently had another marketing specialist completely blow me off after hiring me to do some work.

I do what I say I’m going to do. I work hard to make sure that I meet all deadlines and deliver what I’ve promised. One of the biggest keys to doing that is setting realistic deadlines. I try not to let other people set deadlines for me.

I’m completely open about working at home with my daughter, but I want clients to forget that I’m also taking care of a child. I strive to be so responsive and consistent that it seems like freelancing is the only thing I’m doing.

  • Choose the right clients

One of the best things about being a freelancer is that I can choose my own clients. I try to find people that I believe I can help. I find people whose business sounds interesting to me or whose mission and vision I agree with. I like to work in areas where I already have some knowledge.

I like working with other small business owners, entrepreneurs, and freelancers.

That’s also why working with nonprofits is so important to me. I want to spread their message and make sure the community is aware of the good things they are doing. We need more positivity in our lives especially where I live in Rockford, Illinois which was ranked the 3rd most miserable place to live in the United States.

My ideal client is someone who is organized and realistic. I need someone who has a clear vision for what they want me to do. I also appreciate people who are quick to say thank you and slow to criticize.

  • Stay grateful

I have blessings on blessings; there is no hint of sarcasm when I say that. I think some of my success has to do with the fact that I am so grateful to be able to do this. I don’t personally know anyone else doing something like this. I know a few people with their own businesses, but they are brick and mortar operations or businesses selling actual goods (photos, invites, etc.) I live in a small town and the idea of “working on the internet” is not commonplace.

Many days I’m amazed that I’ve come this far and am so appreciative of my clients. I have the attitude of I get to do this instead of I have to do this.

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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.

How To Choose The Right Client For You

During your freelancing career, you’ll work with many different clients. The great thing about this is you get to choose your clients! In a lot of ways, choosing a client is like choosing a friend or significant other. An ideal match should bring together two people with a shared interest in success, similar working styles, and equal amounts of trust on both sides. Ultimately, your goal should be maintaining long-term relationships with your clients. After all, good clients can be hard to find.

What Type of Client Are You Looking For?

Your working preferences should point you towards your ideal client. If you want to hold traditional 9-5 hours then working with a night owl entrepreneur may not make sense. If you want to work at any time of day then a CEO at a Fortune 500 may not be the best fit. In addition, it depends on the type of freelancing work you’re doing. If you’re a virtual assistant, you may need to have regular check-ins and be available all day on email; this may not be the case for a website designer.

Other facets to consider are a client’s communication and management styles. Some clients are hands-off while others are micromanagers. Some want to speak daily while others prefer shooting off weekly emails. Being aware of your preferences can help you find your ideal clients.

I don’t like talking on the phone. I can do it, and I have a professional and friendly demeanor that would not tip anyone off to the fact that I don’t like phone conversations, but being on the phone is my not favorite thing to do. Adding a loud toddler to the mix has only furthered my dislike. I express myself more clearly and succinctly in writing and I like having a paper trail that I can look back on and double check for accuracy and completion. Regular phone calls are not a deal breaker, but they are something I’d consider a “con” when choosing a client.

Finding Your Best Client Fit

There’s something special about finding the right client; someone who just gets you. You don’t have to worry that an email came off too brusque or that the client didn’t think your joke was funny. People that don’t make you feel like you have to be “on” are good fits for clients.

However, you are still running a business and delivering a service so you don’t want to be too casual. You’re not doing a favor for a friend, you’re being paid for your services and that deserves a certain level of professionalism.

My ideal client is tech-savvy and wants to communicate primarily over email, text, or messaging service. I prefer someone who can give me orders then trust that I’ll have the vision to carry them through. I prefer an easy-going personality and don’t like clients who try to make their urgency my emergency. I’ve found my best clients from a variety of sources.

When you’re choosing clients, two things are important to keep in mind.

Know Your Interests

If I have no interest in agriculture then I’m probably not going to look for a client who runs a family farm or sells pesticide. Although I’m confident that I could research the industry and gain a working knowledge over time, I would find absolutely no joy in it.

Time flies when you’re doing things that interest you. You should look for clients that are working in fields or industries that you feel a connection to. It’s tempting to grab whatever clients you can get when you’re just starting out, but that strategy will ultimately cost you time (and money!). If you have to do a lot of background work before you start the part of your job that you get paid to do, you’re going to make very little or even lose money. For example, if you need to research trends in industry X to write a blog post, because you have no familiarity with the industry, it may take three hours to pull together a few reputable references. A person who is already interested in the industry may be able to get their sources within 15 minutes. This could be the difference between making $100 per hour or $10.

Know Your Deal Breakers

Do you hate when people are late? Are you allergic to small talk? Knowing your deal breakers will give you a better sense of who your clients should be. Even when you work for yourself, you still have to work with and for other people. If you can’t get along or see eye-to-eye, you won’t be able to achieve your goals. Don’t waste precious time trying to force a relationship with a mismatched client. There is a client out there for everyone and you cannot be the best person for every job. If you keep your standards high, your profits will be too.

Clients are the lifeblood of your business. Although you can’t please everyone all the time, you have a much better chance of keeping clients and making them happy if you only work with people who are a good match. Take your time vetting potential clients before starting work together. You may not earn as much as someone who takes every client, but not having to work with difficult people is one of the greatest perks of being a freelancer and you can’t put a price on that.