There I am, I’ve handed in my notice, booked a one way ferry to Europe which leaves in less than a week, I have a full tank of diesel and about £50 in the bank. We have one more payslip due at the end of the month and then we’re on our own, with no income. Yikes. Clearly I needed to rethink my plan!
Fast forward 10 months and we’ve driven over 6,000 miles, visited 16+ countries and have had the time of our lives, from skateboarding around Berlin’s Tempelhofer airfield, snorkeling in Montenegro and adopting our Greek rescue puppy Luna, it was the most life changing experience possible.
Now we’re back home and I’ve got a full book of freelance clients, earning double the hourly rate I used to earn when I commuted to London for my 9 to 5, which gives me the freedom to work less hours, from wherever I want and hours which suit me. Add that I choose the work I am involved in, so work on projects which are of interest, which suit my values or which allow me to learn new skills or be creative and who wouldn’t want to do the same…
That’s the benefits covered, but like me circa April 2018 you’re probably wondering how to actually do it 🙄…
1. Reduce your outgoings at home
Before we left the UK we rented out our house and cancelled everything, tv, phone, gyms, amazon prime, anything at home which we weren’t going to use. We put our credit card debt onto a 0% card so we weren’t going to be racking up interest while we travelled and actually ended up paying off a fair bit of it over the year. The less your monthly outgoings are the easier it’s going to be to make the basic amount to cover your costs, you can earn good money on the road, but for us knowing that we only needed to make enough to cover our travel and living expenses plus basic credit card minimum payments was freeing, it meant we could take time off when we hit our monthly earnings goals, and spend money doing fun stuff rather than covering expenses from home which we didn’t even use
2. Hit up all your contacts
When I realised i was going to need to work, and quickly, I posted on my LinkedIn and Twitter that I was going to be travelling but available for freelance work. I messaged a few select people, including my old boss, and told them I was available and gave some specific ideas of projects I would be a good fit for, and created a proposal for why I’d be great and why the living in a van driving around Europe wasn’t going to be an issue. My old boss took me up on my proposal and ended up being my first freelance client, which I actually bagged before we left the UK, you can imagine the relief! I constantly get feedback from people about the quality of my work, and being able to work my own hours and when I am inspired or motivated really means the work I do is my best, your current job might get a solid 8 hours a day from you, but as a freelancer my 8 hours are all hours when I felt inspired or wanted to work, none of that time is spent chatting to colleagues in the kitchen (unless you count chatting to my dog) or mindlessly watching the clock. I’m so proud of the work I do now and love working on exciting projects!
3. Get a niche
The freelance job marketplace on sites like Upwork can be packed, jobs can have hundreds of applicants and the global location of these means that living in the Western world it can be hard (and not recommended) to compete on price. Trust me when I say you don’t want to be going for being the cheapest as your strategy for finding work. What I found worked really well for me was getting super specific. I got a niche and I stuck to it. My background is working with charities, I know the sector and how things work in these. I love working for a cause and get on well with people who work in similar organisations because we have the same values. I made this into my niche and work with charities and social enterprises who want to make a difference. This is referenced on my website (which I totally recommend having), I mention it in my applications and obviously prioritise applying for jobs which fit this. If you aren’t for anyone in particular then you are for no one. Find your niche, package your work to fit it, and stick with it.
4. Be as dedicated to finding work as you would be to doing work
Don’t get me wrong, finding work isn’t the most interesting thing that you can do with your time, but you have to be willing to put in the time and energy to find it so you don’t end up going back to your employer with your tail between your legs. I set myself weekly targets to apply for 5 jobs a day Monday to Friday, This might not seem like many when you look at sites like Upwork which have literally thousands of jobs but if you are looking for the right jobs, things which fit your niche, long term gigs if that suits your plan then it’s plenty. I spent time crafting a specific application and cover letter for each job, I answered the specific things they were looking for and in each one took the time to make sure I did my research, finding out basic info about the organisation and making sure to reference it it my application. For online applications where they get a lot of people copy and pasting in generic applications taking the time to do this really makes you stand out. I found my second, third and fourth and fifth clients through Upwork and because I took the time to do this my application stood out and I still work with 4 of them today. Spending time applying for the right jobs in the right way will mean you won’t have to spend time on a regular basis looking for new work.
5. Make more work, become more attractive to clients
Finding clients is great, keeping clients is better. Out of the 4 clients I found on Upwork I still have regular monthly work with 3 of them. Making sure to give 100%, under promising and over delivering is the way to go with freelancing. I follow up with people, suggest ways I can help with other aspects of their work or projects, and generally do whatever I can to make their life easier all round. A client would rather give work to someone they already work with and know and trust, rather than having to go off and look for a new person to do a task as it saves time. I make sure to send updates to my clients if I learn a new skill, send examples of other work I do for design clients, and prompt them for work I know they have coming up. It makes their life easier knowing they can just ask me to do it and my life easier having more work and not having to spend time looking for new clients.
Following these steps is going to mean you’re well on your way to finding your first, and subsequent freelance clients. The amount you need to make is going to depend on your situation, do you want to match your current earnings, just make enough to cover the basics, or have enough to cover your travel costs. Whatever reason you’re looking to move to a freelance lifestyle you can make sure you’re on track to the right result with my full time to freelance roadmap!
Now all you need to do is think about where to head to first! 😉
Originally published here.