After 2 years of freelancing part-time, I cut the last tie this past summer and made the leap to designing full-time for Elle & Company. Since then, I’ve received several inquiries from other aspiring full-timers on how I made the transition. And while there’s no magic formula for making the leap and everyone’s journey looks a little different, there are some practical ways to make a smooth transition. Here's a look at the 7 practices that played the largest role in moving from part-time freelance to full-time design!
1. Multiple streams of income
Putting all of your eggs in one basket is risky, especially when you depend on your income to support yourself and your family. Before I started designing and blogging for Elle & Company full-time, I sold planners. Not only are calendar sales seasonal, but they fluctuate from month to month; there was no way to accurately predict how much money I would bring in, which was terrible for budgeting. When I started working toward full-time entrepreneurship, I knew I needed to come up with new, dependable sources of income in order to make ends meet. Both the subscriptions from the Library and booking clients months in advance allow me to budget and give myself a steady paycheck.
If you’re hoping to go full-time, consider other sources that will allow you to stabilize your income or at least lessen the risk if you have a slow month.
2. Cut back expenses
Financial stress is one of the greatest pressures of working for yourself full-time, so cut back on the stress by cutting back on expenses. Think of all the ways you spend your money. What can you do to drastically cut costs? If you want to make your dream a reality, you’re going to have to get in the habit of making sacrifices. This might mean many nights of Ramen noodles or (dare I say it) giving up the iPhone for a cheaper phone plan.
3. Raise prices
Pricing is tricky, but in order to make enough money to feasibly run your business full-time, you have to price your services fairly and reasonably. I do this by estimating how long a project will take and multiplying that number by my hourly rate. I have a tendency to underestimate how much time a project will take me, so I often make it a point to estimate those hours generously to ensure that I’m truly getting paid what I need to be getting paid per hour.
For those of you who are leery of raising your prices for fear that you aren’t worth a higher amount and no one will book you, fear not. Your price is a reflection of the value you see in your work; potential customers won’t take you seriously if your prices are too low. If you’re like me, you want to work with people who value your time and your service, and you can weed out the rest by pricing yourself higher.
4. Zero in on a niche
Try to appeal to everyone and you’ll end up appealing to no one. While it might seem like you’re limiting your audience by zeroing in on a particular group of people, narrowing your niche allows you to more accurately appeal to your ideal audience with your marketing techniques and offerings. Which leads me to my next important tip...
Blogging gives you an audience to sell to. Gearing your posts toward your ideal audience attracts potential clients and customers and gives you an opportunity to make a sale or book a service. Elle & Company is a living example of how blogging can transform a business for the better. It wasn’t until I started narrowing my blogging niche to bloggers and business owners that my design services began to book quickly and my number of monthly Library subscribers started picking up.
If you’re hoping to make the leap to full-time entrepreneurship, I would highly encourage you to utilize a blog. Content marketing is effective and even better, it’s free!
6. Share your work
Buzzfeed's Jonathan Perelman said, "Content is king, but distribution is queen." In order to make the full-time leap, you have to put yourself out there and share your work. Use social media to your advantage and post about your business often. Call attention to your services on your website and find ways to highlight them on your blog (while following the 90/10 rule, of course - 90% beneficial posts for your readers, 10% promotional posts for your business).
Networking is one of the best ways to get your name out there, especially if you’re trying to go full-time. Reach out to other entrepreneurs in similar industries and introduce yourself and your business. You would be so surprised at how many potential clients and customers other friends in the industry will send your way if you take the time to build relationships. Networking can also lead to collaborations, features, and mentorships down the road.
Once you’ve started networking and building relationships, offer an exchange of products/services with another business owner. If you’re a designer, you could create a website for a photographer in exchange for headshots and product photography. Get creative and put yourself out there. Not only will it allow you to cut costs, but it will help build your portfolio and get your name out there.
Are you hoping to make the leap to full-time entrepreneurship? If you've already made the leap, what are some tips that helped you pursue your business full-time?