How do you start freelancing or consulting if you have kids and a family, and a job?
This also applies if you have a full-time demanding job. Or maybe you just have a very active personal life with family. Any of these situations can make it challenging to get going.
I know, I’ve been there.
When I started freelancing, I worked a full-time job and had a wife and two small kids (both under 3).
If you have your hopes up, I don’t mean to squash them … but …
Unfortunately, you’ve got the odds stacked against you.
Don’t fret though, there is a way to succeed … however …
Here’s the thing — this is going to require hard work, dedication, and discipline. You’re going to have to work harder than the person who has no other responsibilities.
In other words, you’re going to have to work double-time. You’ll have to work at your full-time job and work at building your freelancing book of business.
You’ll have to prioritize building a business over Netflix and Video Games.
You’ll have to work when people are going out for a happy hour.
It won’t be like this forever, but when you’re just getting started.
You have other responsibilities. You will often have to push the other stuff to the side for a while to get your new freelancing career off the ground.
This is a hard pill to swallow for many.
Many have a hard time giving up the life luxury that they’ve become accustomed to. However, if you want an extraordinary life, one that freelancing can provide, then you need to put in the extra work to bring that dream to fruition. It’s just how it works.
If you have a full-time job that you cannot quit or cannot go part-time on, this will be your reality.
Again, it is what its.
Just know this – it won’t be that way forever – just for a little bit.
Maybe 3-6 months until you get “on your feet” in regards to freelancing.
So, how do you start?
Let’s get to it …
The Stair Step Approach to Freelancing Full Time
As I mentioned before, this will require some work, but this four-step process is one I’ve done myself with success. I’ve also mentored many others in this exact method. They’ve gone from knowing nothing about freelancing to freelancing full-time.
Step 1: Part-Time / Nights and Weekends
This is where you get your feet wet with freelancing. It’s a good place for you to learn whether or not you like the experience of freelancing or not.
You’ll find a part-time gig either through your network that should be Lon longer than 1-2 weeks of working 2-3 hours a night and weekends if need be (friends, family, colleagues, etc.).
If you work 3 hours a night and 8 hours on the weekends, that gives you 31 hours of work.
3 Hours a day x 5 Days = 15 hours
8 Hours a day x 2 Days = 16 Hours
15 + 16 = 31 Hours a week
If it’s a two-week project, it’s something you could get done in about 62 hours.
I know what you’re thinking …
“Whoa, that means I’m working full time every day of the week, including weekends.”
Yep, I know … not fun.
You can go higher on your workload, but this depends on you and how soon you want to break into freelancing and the capacity in which you’re looking to do it (part-time or full-time).
Why a 1-2 week project?
This is so you can see what it feels like to interact with ac client on a day-to-day basis and deliver something to them by a deadline. You will most likely be talking to them over video chat, a chat tool, and maybe something like WhatsApp or Signal.
At the end of the 1-2 weeks, you will have a good idea if you like this or not. I recommend you do this for 1-2 months. Take some time off between gigs (a few days, a week), so you don’t burn out.
After doing that for 1-2 months, you’ll move onto …
Step 2: Larger Scope Projects
This is essentially the same as part 1, but the scope of the project is more considerable. Usually 1-2 months. I recommend starting with a month-long project if possible.
The same things apply here: You’re trying to see if you enjoy this. 1-2 week projects are usually very fine-grained in scope and not much changes. When you move onto a 1-2 month project, things will change.
The scope will decrease or increase. Things will change in the engagement, problems will pop up. Keeping it about 1-2 months long gives you just enough time to see if you like it and enjoy it without burning you out too much.
Do this for 1-3 months.
Take off some time between gigs, so you don’t burn yourself out. I recommend taking at least one-two weeks off between gigs if you have a full-time job, family, kids, etc.
Think of this as a sprint.
After you’ve done this and still feel this is something you want to do, it’s time to go all-in …
Step 3: Full Project from 1-3 months
This is going to be a big project, one where you’re working 30-40 hours a week on top of your regular job.
Yes, you’re going to be working double time.
This is insane.
Yes. I know.
Yes, I’ve done it.
I do not recommend it, except for when starting out.
So why would I recommend it then?
I recommend that you only do this if you do not have a large reserve of cash saved up.
A large cash reserve would be 6-12 months of savings that would cover your expenses.
Here’s a thing I didn’t mention until now …
During this entire time, you need to be saving everything you earn from freelancing.
Put it away, forget that you ever earned it.
Open another bank account and get it out of sight.
Those 1-2 week gigs?
Save all that money.
Those 1-2 month projects?
Save all that money.
This big 1-3 month project?
Save all that money.
You should be absolutely sure that freelancing is something you want to do full time. If not, then this is not a path you should go down. You’ll also need to have money saved up to cover your expenses for 6-12 months. I’ll get to why in a moment.
You can still work your full-time job and do part-time freelancing.
That’s Ok — there’s nothing wrong with that.
If you go down this road, I’m going to warn you up front – this is burning the candle at both ends. It’s not sustainable.
I do not recommend doing this more than once a year.
This will burn you out.
However, it will also give you the experience of what it’s like working for a client full time. Your hours are different, of course (due to a job, life, etc.), but you’re working double-time to make this happen.
This is where you realize
“Wow, I really love this freelancing thing.”
… or you realize …
“OMG, I wish I could just go back to my regular 9-5. This freelancing thing is such a pain in the rear.”
Again, during this time, save everything you make.
If you’ve made it this far and you’re still chomping at the bit to continue, then you’re ready for …
Step 4: Going Full Time in Freelancing
You’re now ready to give your notice and start working full-time for a client.
However, before you provide your notice to your full-time employer, you need to ensure you have a good 3-6 month client engagement set up. Meaning, you need to make sure you have work set up before you’ve given notice.
Once you’ve done this, you’ve made it! Congrats!
Why you need to save 6-12 months of expenses before you go full-time in freelancing …
Having 6-12 months of expenses saved is VERY IMPORTANT.
When you start freelancing/consulting, you’ll often bill your client on the first of the month for the work you did last month. At that point, you’ve gone 30 days without payment.
The typical payment terms of freelancing and consulting are NET30. This means the clients 30 days to pay you from the time they get the invoice.
Here’s the dirty little secret no one tells you when you start out …
95% of clients will cut you a check on the day it’s due. Meaning that if you sent the invoice on June 1st with a due date of June 30th … they’ll cut the check on June 30th. Then, they’ll send it through the mail, and it will take 7-10 business days to get you. This is how it’s often done in the USA.
Therefore, you are anywhere from 60-70 days without getting paid.
This is why you need 6-12 months of expenses saved up. Not 2-3 months, not 3-4 months … 6-12.
Unfortunately, some clients don’t pay on time and are late, or you have to get lawyers involved (I have had to do this). At that point, it can take 3-6 months to get your money.
The last thing you need to worry about when you’re embarking on a new freelance career is:
“How am I going to buy groceries or pay the mortgage?”
Having these expenses saved and living within your means will pay dividends very much here.
If you do that, you’ll be able to weather the storm of just starting out as a freelancer.
During this entire time, you should make sure that you’re charging the correct amount, managing client expectations, and building your personal brand. This is so that you constantly have new clients coming in. I’ll show you how to do all of that and more on my YouTube channel.