How to Get Started As a Freelancer Without Quitting Your Day Job


Beginning a freelance career can be challenging. It involves giving up financial security, a set routine and is a usually big step out of your comfort zone. However, transitioning from a regular day job to freelancing doesn’t have to be terrifying, or a huge risk. You can start freelancing on the side.

Here, this article is going to show you how to make a smoother transition between freelancing and side jobs from home and your current job without having to dramatically quit your stable income before you get started. 

1. Why not jump into freelancing right away?
2. Freelancing on the Side: The Benefits
3. Getting Started With Your Freelance Business: A Step-By-Step Guide
4. When Do You Know It’s Time To Jump Into Full Time Freelancing?

Why Not Jump Into Freelancing Right Away?

Getting started as a freelancer does come with risks: you haven’t yet built up a reputation to get clients coming to you, and you probably don’t have a strong portfolio yet to guarantee you can build up a host of regular clients within the first few months. 

For many freelancers, the first year is going to involve a fair amount of financial insecurity as you build your business up. Side income isn’t going to be as plentiful as regular full-time work. If you don’t have the savings to support yourself, keeping your current job is a great idea while you begin freelancing.

What’s more, freelancing alongside your day job will allow you to get a better idea of whether this is a career path you really want to pursue – after all, it’s not for everyone. Jumping the gun could be a huge mistake that leaves you without any kind of job.

Not quitting your day job means you have financial backing and can see if your dreams can actually be achieved in reality. You may want to quit now and fully launch into your freelance business, but unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that.  

Trying and failing will hurt, but not trying at all will hurt even more.

So give freelancing a go, but make sure you have something to return to just in case.

Freelancing on the Side: the Benefits

There are many benefits to freelancing on the side, whether you do this temporarily as you start out, or do this, in the long run, to supplement your income from your full-time job.

A few of the benefits you’ll see from freelancing on the side include: 

1. Increased Income

If you quit your day job and begin freelancing exclusively, you are more than likely going to see a drop in income while you try to replace your salary with freelance clients (not an easy task while you are still new and lacking in experience and testimonials).

However, if you freelance on the side of your day job, any income you get from your freelance job will actually increase your current income, which can only be a bonus! Even if you’re doing overnight freelance work, more time is more money, right?

2. Financial Security

The freedom and independence freelancing provides does come at the cost of financial insecurity. Your paycheck will rarely ever be the same each month, and there is always the risk of finding yourself without any clients at all.

Freelancing on the side removes this risk, ensuring that you have financial security in the form of your day job while you build the foundations of your new business.

Also the other way around, in today’s economy nobody can be sure that he/she will be working in the same company a few years from now, so having your freelance business on the side can also have your back in case that happens.

3. Provides More Room for Learning and Finding Opportunities

While freelancing while you’re still employed will mean you need to manage your time more effectively (and probably get up earlier or go to bed later!), it also means you will have more flexibility in learning new skills and finding different opportunities that allow you to really hone in on what path you want your freelance business to take.

Full-time freelancers are tasked with creating financial security and keeping their business afloat.

Employed freelancers, however, already have financial security from their day job. This means that if you decide to take a course to learn a new skill or want to start specializing in a totally new skill, you have the freedom to make that decision without worrying about a lack of income.

Building these new skills on the side can open new opportunities for you even if you decide to stay as a full-time employee.

Portfolio Dragos Muntean

Getting Started With Your Freelance Business: A Step-By-Step Guide

1. Make Time for Yourself

Let’s talk about how the transition is supposed to function. You work 9 to 5 and maybe even have a family that requires your time and attention.

In order to make your freelancing work, you need to be selfish and take some time to pursue your goals – but you can’t always be selfish while you’re working and you cannot be selfish when your family needs you.

Getting up an hour ahead of everyone else or staying awake an hour longer will give you the time you need to develop your business idea.

Start building up towards your dream, but remain responsible as well.

Your wife or kids won’t mind if you put in an hour of work before they wake up, and your boss won’t either – provided you’re discreet.

2. Get Your Name Out There

As a fresh freelancer who is starting out, the first and most important thing you have to do is let people know that you’re available. Putting your name out there is something that is mainly associated with building an online presence, but keeping your offline networking in check is essential as well.

Online, you should create professional social media profiles – it’s not a great idea to mix your personal tweets with your professional image! 

Focus on building a network of freelancers in similar fields to you, businesses that you are interested in, and post regularly (whether that’s a link to a blog if you have one, or just providing commentary on news related to your freelancing field).

You never know where the next project or contract will come from – your neighbor from across the street, a colleague or a friend of a friend. Offline, tell your family and friends that you are going to start freelancing on the side.

Let people know what you plan on doing and offer your services – it can be scary to put yourself out there, but it does pay off.

Here is an e-mail template that you could use to let your network know about your next career move:

Hi [Name], I hope you are doing well.

I’m just reaching out to let you know that I’m leaving [Current company] and starting my own business as [services you provide]. I’ve been doing this on the side for a few months now and I’m excited to start this new adventure full-time.

I have a few projects going on but I’d be happy to discuss with you any potential opportunities to work together. Could I buy you a coffee sometime next week?

Let me know when will work for you and we can set something up.

Would be great to hear from you soon!

Tip: Do not forget to include your new business signature with links to your website and social media networks.

3. Create a Portfolio

For most freelancers, having a strong portfolio is the golden ticket to winning jobs and quickly filling your diary with well-paying clients. 

The paradox, however, is that you need a portfolio to win jobs – but you need those jobs to build your portfolio! When you are first starting out, freelancing on the side has an amazing bonus of giving you plenty of time to build your portfolio before you need to worry about earning a serious income.

When you are first starting out, there is a wide range of ways you can create a strong portfolio without having to actually pitch for jobs against more experienced freelancers. These include:

  • Offering to work for free for friends or family (your future clients don’t need to know this portfolio piece was done for free!)
  • Creating a blog of your own to showcase your work
  • Guest posting for other, more established, websites in your field
  • Taking on lower-paying jobs that may have less competition when pitching
  • Create some hypothetical pieces or teardowns (for example, re-designing the website of a popular brand is a great way of showing your skills and creativity to potential clients)

4. Start Applying for Jobs

Once you have an online presence and portfolio for your freelancing business, the next obvious step is to look for jobs. Spend half-an-hour a day looking through job offers on the internet and emailing out your résumé, cover letter, and portfolio.

This serves two purposes. First, you actually get freelancing experience, allowing you to improve your skillset and try out the job you dreamt of. Second, you diversify your income and can start making more money alongside your day job.

5. Evaluate Your Growth

As you start to take on more freelance jobs, you will need to be careful about how you manage your time. 

The last thing you want to happen is that you take on more jobs than you can handle, which could cause both your freelance work and the work you do at your day job to suffer (not to mention losing any social life you have!).

It could be the case that you take on a few regular freelance clients and decide to work like this, for the time being, supplementing your full-time income with your freelance side income. Or you could decide that you have enough experience and clients to transition into freelancing full-time. The right decision is entirely dependent on you and your circumstances.

A Checklist for Freelancing on the Side

Getting started with freelancing on the side is an overwhelming project to undertake, and we know there’s a lot of information to take it!

Below is a handy checklist to help you breakdown getting started in steps:

  • Decide what freelance specialism to focus on (web design, programming, writing, graphic design, etc.)
  • Create professional social media profiles and consider building a website
  • Grow your online presence and build a network of freelancers and potential clients
  • Build your portfolio
  • Start applying for jobs
  • Evaluate your growth, costs, and time management constantly
  • Transition into full-time freelancing (if that’s what you decide to do!)

Pro Tip: Get Your Current Employer as Your First Client

When looking for freelance clients to add to your new business, don’t overlook one of the most obvious potential clients of all: your current employer!

You have experienced, you know your job role inside out, and (we hope) you do a great job.

If you find the right way to pitch to your current employer, you may find that they are very happy to negotiate a remote contract with you. This will allow you to keep your current employer but secure a stable freelance client rather than having to stick to your current 9-5 routine.

Things to bear in mind to land your current employer as your client:

  • Find the right time – this isn’t a conversation to be had over a coffee break
  • Prepare your pitch beforehand – your employer needs to know what’s in it for them, not just why you want this arrangement to happen
  • Think about the logistics – you should be able to tell your employer where you will be working from, any obstacles you might need to overcome, how you communicate with the company, and how you will get your work done from home 

Pro Tip 2: Create Your Brand

Having a strong brand is critical to making yourself memorable in the sea of freelance workers. That can entail anything from keeping a consistent font in your work to making sure your supplies are color-coordinated.

This goes into creating your freelance website. Make your name and your work memorable, and clients will be eager to return for further services.

When Do You Know It’s Time To Jump Into Full Time Freelancing?

If your end goal is to transition into full-time freelancing after freelancing on the side of your day job while you build up your business, you may be wondering: when is the right time to jump into full-time freelancing?

This is entirely dependent on you and your circumstances. There is no right or wrong time to become a full-time freelancer, as your financial goals and other considerations may be entirely different from those of others. 

Of course, evaluation of your financial growth is a good place to start when deciding if you’re ready to freelance full-time.

  • Does your freelance income match your current day job?
  • Or, if not, is it enough to support you while you focus on growing once you quit your day job?
  • Is your income growing, or has it dropped in recent months?

Asking these questions will give you a clearer picture of what your income will look like after you leave your day job.

As a side note, if you have not been tracking your monthly freelance income yet – create a spreadsheet and start doing this immediately! The worst thing would be to not keep track of your side income and then suddenly be out of luck when you quit your day job and find you didn’t make as much as you originally thought.

Other factors that might help you decide if it’s time to jump into full-time freelancing are if you have repeat clients, or if you are still continuously pitching for new projects.

  • Have you diversified your income with multiple clients, and even considered selling a product such as an e-book or a course to have multiple income streams?
  • Do you have the time and the resources to commit to full-time freelancing?

These factors are all essential in helping you decide when it’s the right time for you to quit your day job and begin freelancing full-time.

Start freelancing today without giving up your stable and secure job, and let that financial security help you focus on building your freelance business foundations to a point where making the leap isn’t scary at all!

Viktor Marinov

Viktor is the voice behind the freelancermap blog. Every week he comes up with helpful hints, checklists, and guides for freelancers and independent workers. If you would like to know how to find remote jobs online or how to niche yourself as a freelancer, don't miss his freelancer tips!

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By Viktor Marinov

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