How-To Guide: Freelancing on the Side

How-To Guide: Freelancing on the Side

You’re so done with your job. In fact, you’re so done with any job!

If you have to sit through one more b.s. meeting or deal with a hovering, sniveling supervisor for another minute, you’re going to scream!

You’ve been mentally ready to be your own boss for so long, and you are finally seriously thinking about going freelance.

But, you’re just not financially ready. You can’t gleefully turn in your resignation if that means you’ll have no money coming in.

Don’t worry, though. I’m going to show you how to start freelancing on the side of your full-time job. That way, when the time is right, you can quit confidently!

Here are the 9 steps to get freelancing on the side – for now!

1. When Freelancing on the Side, Commit to Long Hours

You already work hard at your full-time job. Well, get ready to work harder. You’re about to have much less free time for a while!

To get your freelance business established, you’ll have to commit to long hours. That means building your website in the evenings, marketing yourself on weekends, and ultimately carving out time to complete client work.

Freelancing on the side isn’t going to be easy. You’ll probably want to cave and watch Netflix some nights. But — think about why you’re going through this.

You’re done with your job. You really want out. And your budding freelance business is the key.

Just remember: Your health and your relationships still matter. So, get your rest, practice self-care, and spend some time with loved ones.

2. Check Your Employment Agreement

Before you get started, take a peek at your employment agreement.

Your employer might prohibit you from moonlighting (aka freelancing on the side) if they think it will interfere with your job performance. You may also be bound by a non-compete clause – especially if your freelance work has anything to do with your day job.

If you find something that sounds like a restriction, talk to an attorney. They’ll help you wade through the legal-speak and understand what it really means for your situation.

If your employer is actually limiting you, it might be a good idea to find another job that won’t put the kibosh on your freelance dreams. But, if you’re free and clear, proceed with the next steps.

3. Know Your Finances

You really need to have a handle on your finances before you start freelancing. That means knowing:

  • Your truly necessary expenses (think housing, food, utilities, insurance, medicine, minimum debt payments, etc.)
  • How much you need to earn freelancing (to cover truly necessary expenses)
  • How much you’d like to earn freelancing (so you can include fun things and financial goals)
  • How big of a cash cushion you need (to cover emergencies and supplement lean months)

Ideally, before you quit your job, you should:

Got debt? That doesn’t mean the end of your freelance dreams!

Related Reading: How to Budget with a Variable Income

4. Get Networking

You need to network all. the. time.

The phrase, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” has a lot of truth to it. While incompetent freelancers will sink themselves by doing poor work, you can sink yourself by not regularly meeting new people.

You never know when someone will become a client, mentor, business partner, service provider, or even new friend. So, you need to continuously make and nurture connections.

You can network online on social media, in forums, or in other digital hangouts. Face-to-face events like happy hours or conferences can help you make a lot of new connections in a short period of time.

No matter how you do it, as long as you reach out to new folks regularly, you’re on the right track.

5. Market Yourself

People can’t buy from you if they don’t know that you exist!

That means you need to consistently put yourself out there so folks come to recognize you. There are lots of budget-friendly and free ways to do it.

Here are some of the most critical things to tackle:

  • Start a website to showcase your services and expertise
  • Order and distribute business cards
  • Start building an email list
  • Create social profiles for your business and get really active on one or two platforms
  • Blog/vlog/podcast on a regular basis

When you’re putting yourself out there, provide your audience with value, and promote your services. You need to do both. By sharing valuable insight, people will come to trust your expertise. By genuinely being of service, they’ll feel like you care about them — not just making a buck.

That real connection is priceless.

6. Start a Portfolio

A portfolio is a selection of your work samples and testimonials curated to entice clients to hire you. At first, your portfolio may simply be your own blog or work you’ve done for school.

That’s OK — everyone starts at the beginning!

Depending on what service you’re going to provide, your initial portfolio-building strategy will differ a bit.

Here are a few examples:

If you’re a freelance writer, you could write strategic guest blog posts for larger websites. No, you probably won’t get paid. But — your work will get seen by more eyeballs. And — you can then say you’ve officially been published outside of your own site!

If you’re a graphic designer, you could offer to create a logo or a landing page for a business. Then, prominently display it in your portfolio.

If you’re a virtual assistant, you could take on a small project for another business owner in exchange for a testimonial.

To land these initial opportunities, reach out to folks that you’ve built a rapport with. Even though they’ll get something out of the deal, they’ll be more likely to agree to it if they know and like you.

A note on working for free

It’s fine to do a very little bit of work for free to get your portfolio jumpstarted. But, please know this: your time is valuable. Your skills are valuable. And you deserve to be compensated.

7. Offer Your Services

After all of the networking that you’ve done, people know, like, and trust you. That’s great!

But, they still may not know that you’re for hire.

That’s why you need to obviously and directly offer your services. Make clear posts on social media. Send an email to folks on your email marketing list. Send notes to or call people in your network.

And don’t forget to ask for referrals! Even though a prospective client says no (which could just mean ‘not right now’, BTW), they may know someone who will say yes!

8. Build a Book of Business

By following the above steps, you’ll land your first client. And, gradually, you’ll accumulate several of them.

This is an amazing turning point — momentum is on your side.

It shouldn’t be long now!

Free Resource: Build Your Freelance Business Without Cold Pitching!

9. Quit Your Dang Job!

When you’ve reached the financial goals you set in step 3, quit your dang job!

Though it may be a little nerve-wracking, you’re ready. There’s no reason to hang onto something that no longer serves you.

After your last day on the job, you’re officially a full-time freelancer. Congratulations, you did it!

Final Thoughts

There you have it.

You can now happily get freelancing on the side, knowing there is light at the end of the cubicle tunnel!

The process isn’t hard – but you will have to work hard and be patient to see results.

Don’t worry, though – I have every faith in you!

Have questions? Book a FREE 15-minute call with me here.

Learn by listening? Download the podcast episode about starting your freelance business on the side.

Have I misjudged you? If you love your job and don’t plan to freelance full-time, let me know. Freelancing on the side is still a great way to earn extra money, learn new skills, and meet new people.

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